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[cdn-nucl-l] Seeking nuclear reactors' shutdown, U.S. to build coal plants for Russia
Posted in the News Observer on May 28, 2003 and at:
Seeking nuclear reactors' shutdown, U.S. to build coal plants for Russia
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Energy Department announced a $466 million deal
Tuesday to build two coal-burning power plants for Russia in return for a
Russian promise to close three plutonium-producing reactors considered among
the most dangerous in the world.
Two American companies - Washington Group International and Raytheon
Technical Services - will oversee construction of the two fossil fuel
plants. Most of the actual work is expected to be done by Russian companies
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham called it a major step in the U.S.-Russia
nuclear nonproliferation effort, although it will be five to eight years
before the Russian reactors will shut down and stop making plutonium.
While the Russians have agreed to halt plutonium production and dispose of
34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium that is already stockpiled, they
have refused to shut down the three reactors until a way is found to replace
the electricity and industrial heat the reactors produce for nearby
In addition to making enough plutonium for three warheads each week, the
reactors in the Russian cities of Seversk and Zheleznogorsk also are viewed
as among the most dangerous because of their design, which is similar to the
Chernobyl reactor involved in the 1986 nuclear disaster in Ukraine. Unlike
U.S. reactors, for example, they do not have concrete containment domes to
hold in radiation in case of an accident or major leak.
"They're the most dangerous reactors they've got," said Kenneth Baker, the
top Energy Department official involved in nuclear nonproliferation issues.
And, he adds, "when you have three reactors producing enough plutonium for
three bombs a week, you want to (deal with them) as fast as you can."
Abraham and Russia's nuclear minister, Alexander Rumyantsev, agreed in March
to replace the reactors with fossil fuel plants. As part of the agreement,
the U.S. government would arrange for the replacement power.
"Replacing these reactors with fossil fuel energy is critical to eliminate
the production of weapons-grade plutonium in Russia and closing these
facilities," said Abraham, who announced the contracts at a news conference
with Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov.
Abraham said the Russians would handle - and pay for - the shutdown of the
reactors, while the U.S. companies, working with the Russian contracting
firm of Rosatomstroi, will build the new fossil fuel plants.
Washington Group International - an engineering, construction and management
company headquartered in Boise, Idaho - will oversee work at the Seversk
site, where an old coal-fired plant will be refurbished and expanded by
Raytheon, headquartered in Vienna, Va., will oversee construction of a new
plant at the Zheleznogorsk site with a completion date of 2011.
Abraham said that final contracts are expected to be completed with the two
companies by the end of June. Until then, he said, he could not provide
specifics such as how $466 million will be divided. The companies were
selected from a list of a half dozen companies provided by the Defense
Department, Abraham said.