USEC Signs Multi-Year Contract with Russia’s TENEX for Low Enriched Uranium Supply
RUSSIAN-U.S. HEU AGREEMENT
[Russian-U.S. agreement concerning the disposition of highly enriched uranium extracted from nuclear weapons]
The Governments of United States of America and the Russian Federation, hereafter referred to as the Parties,
Desiring to arrange the safe and prompt disposition for peaceful purposes of highly enriched uranium resulting from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons in Russia, bearing in mind existing agreements in the area of arms control and disarmament, the reduction of nuclear weapons in accordance with existing agreements in the area of arms control and disarmament,
Reaffirming their commitment to ensure that the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes are carried out under arrangements that will further the objectives of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of July 1, 1968, Affirming their commitment to ensure that nuclear material transferred for peaceful purposes pursuant to this Agreement will comply with all applicable non-proliferation, material accounting and control, physical protection, and environmental requirements.
Have agreed as follows:
ARTICLE I: PURPOSE
The Parties shall cooperate in order to achieve the following objectives:
1. The conversion as soon as practicable of highly enriched uranium (HEU) resulting from dismantlement of nuclear weapons in Russia extracted from nuclear weapons resulting from the reduction of nuclear weapons pursuant to arms control agreements and other commitments of the parties which is currently estimated at approximately
500 metric tons in the Russian Federation, having an average assay of 90 percent or greater of the uranium isotope 235 into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use as fuel in commercial nuclear reactors. For purposes of this Agreement, LEU shall mean uranium enriched to less than 20 percent in the isotope 235; and
2. The technology developed in the Russian Federation for conversion of HEU resulting from the reduction of nuclear weapons in the Russian Federation may be used for conversion of United States HEU in the United States of America; and
3. The establishment of appropriate measures to fulfill the non-proliferation, physical security protection, nuclear material accounting and control, and environmental requirements of the Parties with respect to HEU and LEU subject to this Agreement.
ARTICLE II: IMPLEMENTING CONTRACTS AND AGREEMENTS
1. The Parties, through their Executive Agents, shall within twelve six months from entry into force of this Agreement seek to enter into an initial implementing contract to accomplish the objectives set forth in Article I of this Agreement.
The Parties may conclude additional implementing contracts or agreements pursuant to his Agreement, as required. For any purchase, the Executive Agents shall negotiate terms (including price), which shall be subject to approval by the Parties.
2. It is the intent of the Parties that the initial implementing contract shall provide for, inter alias:
i. The purchase by the United States Executive Agent of HEU, conversion of such HEU to LEU. LEU converted from HEU at facilities in the Russian Federation and sale of
the LEU for commercial purposes. and/ or the purchase by the United States Executive Agent of LEU converted from HEU at facilities in Russia and sale of such LEU for commercial purposes; The United States will provide information to the Russian Federation on all commercial disposition of such LEU;
ii. Initial delivery of HEU or LEU converted from HEU resulting from the dismantlement of nuclear weapons in Russia by October 1993, Initial delivery of LEU converted from HEU extracted from nuclear weapons resulting from the reduction of nuclear weapons pursuant to arms control agreements and other commitments of the parties by October 1993, if possible;
iii. Conversion of no less than 10 metric tons of HEU having an average assay of 90 percent or greater of the uranium isotope 235 in each of the first five years, and, in each year thereafter, conversion of no less than 30 metric tons of HEU having an average assay of 90 percent or greater of the uranium isotope 235; however, specific amounts will be stipulated in the first and subsequent implementing contracts;
iv. The participation of the U.S. private sector and of Russian enterprises;
v. The allocation among the United States of America, private sector firms of the United States of America, the Russian Federation, and Russian enterprises of any proceeds or costs arising out of activities undertaken pursuant to any implementing contract;
vi. The use by the Russian Federation side of a portion of the proceeds from the sale of HEU or LEU converted from HEU for the conversion of defense enterprises, enhancing the safety of nuclear power plants, environmental clean-up of polluted areas and the construction and operation of facilities in the Russian Federation for the conversion of HEU to LEU,
vii. By agreement of the Parties an equivalent amount of HEU can substitute for the corresponding amount of LEU planned for purchase by the United States Executive Agent.
ARTICLE III: EXECUTIVE AGENTS
Each Party shall designate an executive agent to implement this Agreement. For the United States side of America the executive agent shall be the Department of Energy hereinafter referred to as DOE. For the Russian side Federation the Executive Agent shall be the Ministry of the Russian Federation of Atomic Energy.
After consultation with the other Party, either Party has the right to change its executive agent upon 30 days written notice to the other Party.
If a governmental corporation is established under United States law to manage the uranium enrichment enterprise of the Department of Energy, it is the intention of the United States Government to designate that corporation as the Executive Agent for the United States side.
PRIORITY OF AGREEMENT.
In case of any inconsistency between this Agreement and any implementing contracts or agreements, the provisions of this Agreement shall prevail.
1.The Executive Agent of the Russian Federation shall ensure that the quality of HEU LEU derived from HEU subject to this Agreement is such that it is convertible to LEU usable in commercial reactors. Specifications shall be agreed upon in the Process of negotiating the initial and subsequent implementing contracts.
2. The conversion of HEU subject to this Agreement shall commence as soon as possible after the entry into force of the initial implementing contract.
3. The Parties shall, to the extent practicable, seek to arrange for more rapid conversion of HEU to LEU than that provided for in Article II (2) (iii).
4. The United States of America shall use HEU and LEU acquired pursuant to this Agreement and its implementing contracts and agreements, when subject to United States jurisdiction and control, for peaceful purposes only.
5. HEU and LEU acquired by the United States of America pursuant to this Agreement, and implementing contracts and agreements related to it, shall be subject to safeguards in accordance with the November 18, 1977 Agreement between the United States of America and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the Application of Safeguards in connection with the Treaty for the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of July 1, 1968.
6. The Parties shall maintain physical protection of HEU and LEU subject to this Agreement. Such protection shall, at a minimum, provide protection comparable to the recommendation set forth in IAEA document INFCIRC/225/REV.2 concerning the physical protection of nuclear material.
7. If the Parties enter into an agreement for cooperation concerning the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, nuclear material acquired by the United States of America pursuant to this Agreement and its implementing contracts and agreements, when subject to U.S. jurisdiction or control, shall be subject to the terms and conditions of that Agreement for cooperation.
8. The activities of the United States Government of America under this Agreement, or any implementing contract or agreement shall be subject to the availability of United States Government funds.
9. In the event the United States Government does not have funds available for implementation of this Agreement, the Executive Agent of the Russian Federation reserves the option to obtain funding for implementation of this Agreement from any private U.S. company.
10. Prior to the conclusion of any implementing contract, the Parties shall establish transparency measures to ensure that the objectives of this Agreement are met, including provisions for nuclear material accounting and control and access, from the time that HEU is made available for conversion until it is converted into LEU. Specific transparency measures shall be established in the same time frame as the negotiation of the initial implementing contract, and shall be executed by a separate agreement.
11. Prior to the conclusion of any implementing contract, the Parties shall agree on appropriate governing provisions for entry and exit, liability, and status of personnel, exemptions for taxes and other duties, and applicable law
12. The Executive Agent of the United States shall use the LEU converted from HEU in
such a manner so as to minimize disruptions in the market and maximize the overall economic benefit for both Parties.
This Agreement shall have no effect on contracts between the Russian Federation Russian enterprises and United States companies for the delivery of uranium products which are currently in force and consistent with United States and Russian law.
13.This Agreement places no limitations on the right of the Russian Federation to dispose of LEU derived from HEU resulting from dismantlement of nuclear weapons in Russia extracted from nuclear weapons resulting from the reduction of nuclear weapons pursuant to arms control agreements and other commitments of the Parties beyond the specific commitments set forth herein.
ENTRY INTO FORCE, DURATION AND AMENDMENTS
1. This Agreement shall enter into force upon signature and shall remain in force for twenty years until the full amount of HEU provided for in paragraph 1 of Article 1 is converted into LEU, delivered, and supplied to commercial customers.
The duration of this Agreement may be extended by the written agreement of the Parties.
2. Each Party may propose amendments to this Agreement.
Agreed amendments shall enter into force upon signature and shall remain in force so long as this Agreement remains in force.
Each Party shall have the right to terminate this Agreement upon 12 months written notification to the other Party .
Done at Washington this 18th day of February 1993, in duplicate in the English and Russian languages, both texts being equally authentic.
For the United States of America: William Burns
For the Russian Federation: Viktor Mikhailov Printer Friendly Version
Uranium Diet: US Nuclear Power Industry
Could Face Fuel Shortage
By Ivan Fursov
25 September, 2013
An aerial view of the Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant
in Pottstown, Pennsylvania (AFP Photo / Stan Honda)
Russia has been supplying US nuclear power plants with fuel for a dumping price since 1995. But with the HEU-LEU agreement coming to an end, America’s nuclear power generation industry is likely to face a sharp fuel price surge and shortage.
The HEU-LEU agreement (Megatons to Megawatts Program) signed in 1993 supposed downblending of 500 tons of Soviet-made military grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) (equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads) into low-enriched uranium (LEU) to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants out of it.
The program supplied up to 40 percent of nuclear fuel for America’s 104 nuclear reactors (America’s 65 nuclear power plants generate over 19 percent of electric power in the country) and appeared to be extremely profitable. For example in 1993-2009, Russia raised a mere $8.8 billion by selling hundreds of tons of highly-enriched uranium (HEU), allegedly at a fixed price lower than enriched uranium production costs at the time.
Still, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has put the money ($12 billion for the HEU-LEU agreement in total) to good use, investing in fundamental research and infrastructure, in particular into innovative uranium enrichment technology and fuel assembly fabrication.
Today Rosatom possesses cutting edge gaseous centrifuge enrichment industry concentrated at four facilities in Siberia and the Urals, making up to 40 percent of the world enrichment capacities.
The HEU-LEU agreement is due to end in November 2013 with the final contracted tons of nuclear fuel delivered to the American customer, United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC).
The US has the highest number of commercial nuclear power plants and is the biggest consumer of nuclear fuel in the world.
To meet the high internal consumption the US government has not only been buying uranium fuel from Russia, but also has been converting its own nuclear warheads into power plant fuel. In 1996, the US government declared 174.3 tons of military HEU as surplus and recycled it into LEU fuel.
The US stopped producing HEU back in 1964, when it reached the maximum of 30,000 nuclear warheads in its possession, while Russia ceased to produce it in 1988, when the USSR already possessed 44,000 nuclear warheads. For some time the USEC continued producing HEU for submarine nuclear reactors, but ceased this kind of production in 1992. Production of military-grade plutonium has also been stopped in both the US (in 1988) and Russia (in 1994).
Both France and the UK stopped HEU production in 1990s, with reportedly only two countries in the world, India and Pakistan, still producing it for internal military needs.
With an estimated 2,000 tons of highly-enriched uranium produced by all members of the ‘nuclear club’ ever, at least a third of the metal has already been recycled into fuel. Since no nuclear-capable country is willing to disarm altogether, the process of downblending is finite.
While Rosatom has been successfully developing in every direction over recent years, the USEC continues to rely on outdated and extremely costly gas-diffusion enrichment technology despite multibillion-dollar investments into infrastructure. The corporation’s gaseous centrifuge enrichment project at American Centrifuge Plant at Piketon, West Virginia, worth $3 billion, is suffering constant technical problems and is far from up-and-running at full capacity.
In 2012, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow is not going to extend the so-called Nunn–Lugar program (Cooperative Threat Reduction [CTR] Program), within the framework of which the Megatons to Megawatts Program has been operating for national security reasons.
To keep up with the changes in 2011 USEC signed a contract with Russia’s TENEX for 10-year supply of low-enriched uranium starting in 2013. By 2015, the level of LEU supply to USEC is expected to reach half the original level of TENEX’s supplies. However, the quantities supplied under the new contract will come from Russia’s commercial enrichment activities, meaning the enriched uranium will be sold to the US for a considerably higher international market price. Of course, this could have an impact on internal US electric power generation and consumption.
Fast reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle
Meanwhile, Russia is the only country that has developed industrial scale fast-neutron nuclear reactors, the so-called breeder reactor technology that enables to use a wider range of radioactive elements as nuclear fuel and - besides producing electric energy - generating more fissile material that can be used as nuclear fuel than it consumes. This brings us to the closed nuclear fuel cycle, a long-lasting dream of the nuclear energy industry that one day might come true.
With the BN-600 breeder reactor (600 megawatt) at Russia’s Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant running since 1980, the assembly of the next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts) at the same site is set to be finished by the end of 2013 and operational in September 2014.
Russian physicists have already elaborated a next step for the revolutionary technology, a BN-1200 breeder reactor that is set to be assembled at Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant by 2020.
Overall eight BN-1200 breeder reactors are expected to be constructed by 2030, marking the dawn of a new era of nuclear energy power generation – a truly ‘green’ and ecologically secure closed nuclear fuel cycle.
Space exploration and plutonium-238 are two things inexorably associated with each other.
Actually, all the information that humankind so far obtained from its lasting many years unmanned missions to Solar System’s planets is thanks to plutonium, as no other element can help maintain energy self-sustainability of a space vehicle better.
All spacecraft from Voyager 1 - which has become the first manmade object to reach interstellar space - right to the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars, are fuelled by plutonium. Because solar panels are too big and energetically inefficient, a nuclear reactor is too heavy and complicated, chemical electric batteries that could last for years do not exist, so only radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTG) using plutonium-238 as fuel are proven and reliable source of power in space.
But there is a peculiarity: Voyager 1 is still sending data using electricity generated from US-produced plutonium, while the Curiosity rover operates on watts generated from plutonium ‘made in Russia’.
Over the last years NASA has been ringing alarm bells over not having enough plutonium-238 to power up its deep space exploration mission space crafts, because the US stopped plutonium production decades ago and cannot restore the technology anytime soon.
Unlike plutonium-239 that is used to make nuclear bombs and of which the US possesses hundreds of tons, its close isotope plutonium-238 is a much rarer element.
With nuclear disarmament gaining momentum after the end of the Cold War, the US stopped producing military grade plutonium in 1992, with Russia shutting down its last military reactor producing plutonium-239 in 2010. But only Russia maintained industrial production of various isotopes of plutonium.
NASA’s plutonium poverty is a long-lasting problem. The US space agency used to buy the necessary radioactive element from the sole planetary plutonium producer Russia for years, but starting from 2009, when Moscow demanded revision of the old contract and hiked the price, the US stopped buying plutonium from Russia.
The US agency currently has just about 16kg of Pu-238, which isn’t much. The Curiosity rover’s ‘atomic heart’ consists of an RTG with over 4kg of the precious radioactive element, reports The Wired. But for example launched in 2006 New Horizons probe bound to Pluto right now travels through space with 11kg of the nuclear material on board.
NASA admits it has plutonium enough only till the end of this decade, but a number of missions have already been shelved entirely due to the lack of Pu-238.
Besides that, many military satellites also run on plutonium. As recently as August 28 this year, a Delta IV heavy rocket launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California delivered to orbit huge KH-11 intelligence satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office. Even if this satellite has solar panels, as any military installation it must have a reserve power supply, most probably an RTG.
On the off chance the Pentagon has some secret plutonium stash, it wouldn’t last long, simply because the US stopped its own plutonium production in 1988.
On top of all plutonium-238 half life is only about 87.7 years (for other plutonium isotopes it could be thousands or millions of years), so the metal produced a quarter of a century ago has partly lost its energy potential already.
The US Atomic Energy Act forbids NASA from manufacturing plutonium-238 on its own, so starting from 2001 the space agency has been pressing the US authorities to restore Pu-238 production. The program estimated between $85 and $125 million is developing with a slow pace with financing of only $10 million in 2013.
The program would imply using two reactors, the High Flux Isotope Reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and the Advanced Test Reactor west of Idaho Falls, and is supposed to deliver 1.5-2kg of plutonium annually starting from 2017.
But even that supply is not likely to satisfy NASA’s needs as production of plutonium for a mission like the New Horizons would take years, while there are more missions that cannot wait.
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