Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies at MIPT

Some Reflexions on Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT)

by Vladimir Rybachenkov

The author is a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. The talk was presented at the CD Workshop on FMCT Geneva, January 25-26, 1999.

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Dear Colleagues,

It is a privilege and a pleasure to take the floor at such a representative meeting of CD delegates, who presumably will soon take part in the FMCT negotiations.

Credit should be given to the Delegation of Canada to the Conference on Disarmament and to the Institute for Science and International Security who took the initiative to organize this workshop with the view of providing information relevant to different issues associated with the forthcoming negotiation of the Treaty.

Since the workshop is designed to be an educational forum we are not supposed to resolve here controversial issues which may be raised during future negotiations but rather to share our individual expertise not necessarily reflecting official positions of any particular country.

It would be important to underline from the beginning that Russia consistently stands for the development of a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. We consider the FMCT as an important measure in strengthening international nuclear nonproliferation regime and enhancing disarmament process by capping the amount of material available for new nuclear weapons.

The FMCT would consolidate the status quo situation in the Nuclear Weapon States (NWSs), where Russia, USA, UK and France have already announced that they have ceased production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and at the same time it would cap the weapon programs of the threshold states.

Russia ceased production of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons in 1989. 10 of 13 Russian weapon grade plutonium production reactors were shut down, while the remaining 3 in Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk are still in operation since they have a dual use function and produce heat and electricity for the population of surrounding regions. Nevertheless since the autumn of 1994 plutonium from these reactors is no more used for weapons purposes. Moreover in the framework of the 1997 Agreement between the governments of the Russian Federation and the USA the cores of the above mentioned reactors will be converted by the year 2001 so that the accumulation of plutonium in the spent fuel is reduced by one hundred times and its quality becoming not weapon grade.

Since the basic objective of the FMCT is banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices we consider that upon entry into force of the Treaty each State Party would undertake:

A key issue determining the substance of the Treaty including the cost of verification, is its scope, i.e. definition of categories of fissile material and facilities subject to verification and particularly whether the FMCT should apply to material pre-dating its entry into force (past production or "stocks").

As far as the last point is concerned we consider counterproductive the idea of the FMCT being applied to pre-existing stocks held by NWSs and threshold States since this would practically be equal to immediate nuclear disarmament which is not a realistic short term goal.

The Russian Federation is committed to the objective of reducing nuclear arms on a global scale to a minimum level which would ensure the maintenance of strategic stability and eventually the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. We are convinced that a comprehensive nuclear disarmament has to be reached gradually without any hampering and at the same time without any haste while trying not to set objectives unattainable for the moment.

Nobody would deny that significant progress has been achieved in the field of nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War, the leading role in this process belonging to Russia and the United States which concluded such treaties as INF, START-1 and START-2, leading to a real reduction of their nuclear arsenals.

In accordance with INF Treaty more than 1800 missiles in the former USSR and about 850 American missiles were destroyed. Thus by 1991 an entire class of nuclear armaments was eliminated.

Under START-2 by the year 2007 a drastic reduction by 2/3 of the Cold War level in nuclear arsenals of the two major nuclear powers will be achieved. An agreement has been already reached on START-3 negotiations after the START-2 enters into force. Under this treaty a reduction to a level of 2-2,5 thousand warheads in each country's nuclear arsenals will be achieved.

In their Joint Statement in Helsinki in March 1997 the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States announced that START-3 agreement will include among other things measures relating to the transparency of strategic nuclear warhead inventories and the destruction of strategic nuclear warheads and any other jointly agreed technical and organizational measures to promote the irreversibility of deep reductions including prevention of a rapid increase in the number of warheads.

Other important steps aimed at reducing nuclear stockpiles were undertaken in recent years.

In 1993 a Russian-American Intergovernmental Agreement on HEU removed from nuclear warheads was concluded. Under the terms of the Agreement 500 tons of HEU declared as no longer required for defense purposes of Russia will be blended down to low enriched uranium (LEU) at Russian enterprises for further use in American nuclear power plants for a period of 20 years. During 4 years of its implementation more than 30 tons of HEU were thus disposed of.

In September 1998 the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States adopted Joint Statement of Principles for management and disposition of plutonium designated as no longer required for defense purposes.

They affirmed the intention of each country to remove by stages approximately 50 tons of plutonium from their nuclear weapons programs and to convert that material into forms unusable for nuclear weapons through consumption of plutonium fuel in existing nuclear reactors or its immobilization in glass or ceramic form mixed with high level radioactive waste.

The Presidents also agreed that the comprehensive effort for disposition of this plutonium will be a broad-based multilateral one and decided that an initial set of industrial-scale facilities for the conversion of plutonium to fuel for the reactors will be developed and operated as soon as practically feasible.

In their plutonium disposition effort Russia and USA will seek to develop acceptable methods and technology for transparency measures, including appropriate international verification measures.

It should be also noted that substantial progress has been achieved since 1996 within the framework of "Trilateral Initiative" (Russia, USA, IAEA) concerning investigation of practical measures related to the application of IAEA verification to excess weapon origin fissile materials, which is considered as a significant contribution to the fulfillment of the Principles and Objectives agreed upon at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference. In the case of Russia IAEA verification would be applied to fissile materials storage at Mayak facility near Chelyabinsk which is being constructed with American participation. This storage will accommodate about 40 percent of the Russian weapons-grade plutonium.

Let me now come to the question of categories of facilities and fissile material which could be subject to the FMCT. Here there may be two basic options.

1. A treaty of wide verification scope, covering all nuclear facilities and nuclear material.

We do not consider such an approach constructive first of all because of financial reasons - as 1995 IAEA study showed it will require substantial additional investment - about 3 times of the present level of the IAEA Safeguards Department budget ($ 210 million versus $70 million).

One has also to take into account the fact that practically all former military nuclear facilities in Russia have not been planned to take up verification measures (are not "verification friendly"). Moreover military and peaceful nuclear activities in Russia are traditionally closely interlinked. To cope with those two factors within the FMCT framework important additional expenditures will be needed.

Having in mind heavy financial burden which Russia already bears in complying xvith such treaties as START-1 and Chemical Weapons Convention it is understandable why we attach special attention to minimizing financial implications of the FMCT implementation.

It is questionable indeed whether any practical purpose would be served by applying wide scope FMCT verification measures in NWSs, to say nothing about the readiness of international community to share impressive additional costs for such an arrangement.

2. More advantageous from pragmatic point of view would be a treaty with "focused" approach limited to the most proliferation sensitive fissile material production facilities (reprocessing and enrichment plants) and relevant production from these facilities.

Under such an approach the FMCT verification would be applied to all enrichment plants to ensure there is no production of prohibited fissile material.

In the case of reprocessing plants verification would be focused on separated plutonium.

It is evident that even in the case of an FMCT with limited scope the verification must cover not only non-production of prohibited nuclear material but also non-diversion of civilian fissile material of certain agreed upon categories produced after entry into force of the Treaty. This duality brings us to the problem of definition of categories of fissile materials to be covered by FMCT.

Russian experts are inclined to believe that for the FMCT purposes a definition of fissile material for nuclear weapons given in UN report A/6858 (October 1967) should be adopted - uranium with contents of U-235 isotope more than 90% and plutonium with contents of Pu-239 isotope more than 95%.

One has to recognize that such a definition does not preclude the implementation of verification measures at enrichment and reprocessing plants aimed to assure the absence of production of prohibited nuclear material. It should be noted the IAEA has a vast experience in developing and applying necessary techniques for these purposes. Namely, within Hexapartite Enrichment Project initiated in 1989 all gas centrifuge enrichment facilities in Germany, Netherlands, Japan, USA, UK and Australia were put under IAEA safeguards. Ample experience has been gained by EURATOM in safeguarding reprocessing plants in France and UK.

On the other hand this approach will not exclude verification of non-diversion but only reduce the volume of civilian nuclear material to be controlled after it gets out of the production facilities.

The basic logic behind the proposed option which would provide substantial financial savings is that NWSs should have little incentive to divert nuclear material in the FMCT framework since before joining the Treaty they would have concluded that previously accumulated stocks were sufficient for their foreseeable defense needs.

In this context we share the view of some foreign experts who presume that thought should be given to the idea that the design of verification approaches to deter vertical proliferation may be qualitatively different to those directed at possible horizontal proliferation.

Finally I would like to make short comments on the following important FMCT issues.

We consider that a mechanism should be envisaged in the FMCT allowing exemption from verification of non-proscribed nuclear military activities (e.g. production of fuel for naval propulsion). Such a clause exists already in INFCIRC/153 (model full scope safeguards agreement between the NPT Member States and IAEA) allowing NNWSs to possess without safeguards military HEU for non-explosive purposes.

We are also of the view that operations related to "cleaning" or refurbishing of existing nuclear warheads in NWSs necessary for assuring their safety, are not to be considered as a "new production" and as such should not be put under the FMCT.

And last but not the least - membership in the Treaty.

We deem important participation in the Treaty of all countries, potentially capable of producing nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosive devices and possessing relevant facilities for uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, as well as all nuclear states.

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