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Letter to Heads of State of Nations of the G-8

7/03/2000

Anti-Plutonium International Movement
July 3, 2000

Dear Prime Minister or President:

On June 4, 2000 President Clinton and President Putin approved an agreement for the disposition of 68 metric tons of surplus military plutonium. At the next meeting of the G-8 nations in Okinawa, they will ask you for financial support of their program. While we support the goal of putting plutonium into non-weapons usable form, we believe that the method which the Presidents of both countries have agreed upon to achieve it – the use of plutonium as a reactor fuel – is wrong. It is wrong for environmental, economic, non-proliferation, political, and safety reasons.

First, let us remember Chernobyl. This catastrophic accident spread contamination far and wide and will continue to threaten the people of the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia far into the future. People of many other countries also paid a high price for it. Accidents of similar severity are possible with the kinds of reactors which would be used in the plutonium disposition program. As a member of the G-8, it would be unconscionable for you to show any support for this program before conducting your own investigation of the safety issues involved.

Neither US nor Russian light water reactors were designed to use plutonium fuel, also called MOX fuel, which is the principal element of this plan for both the US and Russia. The use of plutonium fuel raises numerous safety concerns which will be heightened by the lack of effective regulation in Russia. Moreover, Russian light water reactors, called VVER-1000, have experienced many safety problems which have not been acknowledged or analysed publicly by Minatom. Further, the Russian BN-600 breeder reactor, which would also be used in the program, has also experienced safety problems. Finally, there may be pressures to prolong the operating licenses of these reactors. We are especially alarmed that safety issues were not resolved before the Presidential agreement was signed.

In light of these safety issues, it is especially important to note that disposition of weapons plutonium in light water reactors is strongly promoted by the United States while Minatom prefers to use plutonium in breeder reactors. Yet, the United States has not assumed liability for potential accidents in a VVER-1000. This could cause political problems in case of an accident in addition to health and environmental problems.

Second, there could be negative consequences for the Russian economy with corresponding negative impacts on the rest of the world. By subsidising a plutonium fuel infrastructure in Russia, you would be encouraging Minatom's plans to build more nuclear reactors, including breeder reactors which are not the most economic way to generate electricity.

Third, we are not reassured by the situation in the United States. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has not provided sufficient oversight in the selection of reactors for plutonium fuel. The NRC allowed the commercial interests of reactor owners to dominate the process. This is highly inappropriate and shows that safety is a low priority.

Fourth, we are not convinced by statements that the facilities which will participate in this program serve only disarmament and non-proliferation goals. In fact, some of the facilities can also be used for military purposes. For example, chemical processing facilities outlined in the agreement can also be used to make new plutonium pits for new nuclear weapons. It is clear from statements made by both governments that they are intent on designing new weapons and that they may build new weapons facilities even as they speak of disarmament. Moreover, by encouraging a plutonium economy in Russia and building a plutonium fuel infrastructure in the United States, the program undermines non-proliferation. The circulation of plutonium fuel in the commercial sector would increase the risk of diversion.

We support a safer alternative. Plutonium can be immobilised in a way that makes it unusable in nuclear weapons. The United States will use immobilisation for a small part of its plutonium surplus, but Russia will not use it at all. This means that the agreement of June 4 will not fund an immobilisation infrastructure in Russia. We recommend that this be the alternative you decide to fund. Also, we think that Russia should be compensated for forgoing the use of plutonium as a fuel. This will prevent the emergence of a plutonium economy in Russia and would be well worth the extra expense. This approach could also be crucial in securing the cooperation of the Russian government.

The issues that US-Russian plutonium disposition raises should not be confined to technical fine print. The action you take will have profound impacts on the environment, on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and on energy policy for many decades. Before making a decision favoured by the two most powerful nuclear weapons states, we request that you conduct a thorough investigation into the entire matter. As this decision will have far-reaching effects on the nations of the world, this investigation should include public hearings and other types of public input.

We respectfully request to meet with you before or during the G-8 Summit in Okinawa. We would use the opportunity to present facts and analyses that differ substantially from the information which the governments of the United States and Russia have prepared. With respect for technical and scientific integrity and in the spirit of democracy, we ask that you not make any decision on this important issue before giving us a fair hearing.

Thank you for your attention to our request. We look forward to your response and to meeting with you.

Respectfully,

Signed by leaders of 72 NGOs in Europe, Asia, and N. America


Signatories to the G-8 Letter Opposing Plutonium Fuel
July 3, 2000

Russian NGOs (34)

Citizen Center on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, Vladimir Mikheev, Director (Krasnoyarsk)

Krasnoyarsk Department of International Socio-Ecological Union, Nikolay Zubov, Director
(Krasnoyarsk)

"Citizens for Nuclear Safety" Interregional Coalition, Olga Pitsunova, President (Saratov)

Nuclear Safety Movement, Natalya Mironova, Chairman (Chelyabinsk)

Green World, Loeg Bodrov, Chairman, (Susnovy Bor, St. Petersburg Region)

Inter-regional Movement "For Nuclear Free Don," Irina Reznikova, Chairman (Volgodonsk,
Rostov-on-Don)

Volgodonsk Department of International Socio-Ecological Union, Vladimir Shalimov,
Chairman,
(Volgodonsk)

Ecological Initiative, Yury Zubkov, Chairman, (Tomsk)

Tomsk Ecological Student inspection, Koslov, Chairman (Tomsk)

Center for Assistance for Ecological Initiatives, Michael Piskunov, Chairman (Dimitrovgrad,
Ulyanovsk Region)

Scientists of Siberia for Global Responsibility, Sergei Pashchenko, Director (Novosibirsk)

Center for Assistance to Environmental Initiatives, Andrey Pinchuk, Director (Saratov)

Radioactive Safety Committee of Yeketrinburg Union of Research and Engineering Societies,
Leonid Piskunov, Chairman (Yeketrinburg)

Nuclear Ecology and Energy Policy Center, Lydia Popova, Chairman (Moscow)

Center for Russian Environmental Policy, Alexy Yablokov, President (Moscow)

International Socio-Ecological Union, Svet Zabelin, Co-Chair (Moscow)

Program for Nuclear and Radioactive Safety, Evgeny Krysanov, Coordinator (Moscow)

Anti-Nuclear Campaign of Socio-Ecological Union, ECODEFENSE!, Vladimir Slivyak,
Co-chairman, (Kaliningrad)

Center of Coordination and Information "AzovBass," (Novocherkask)

Kostroma Regional Public Ecological Movement "In the Name of Life," Tamara Dobretsova,
Co-chair (Kostroma)

"Green Don" Nongovernmental Regional Ecological Movement, Vladimir Lugatov, Chairman
(Novocherkask)

Tsymlyansk Department of Interregional Movement "For A Nuclear-Free Don," Nina
Syshkova (Tsymlyansk)

Rostov Department of Interregional Movement "For A Nuclear Free Don," Vladimir Zyablin,
Chairman (Rostov-on-Don)

Kamensk-Shakhinsk Department of Interregional Movement "For A Nuclear-Free Don,"
Anatoly Budenis, Chairman (Rostov Region)

Kalachev Department of Interregional Movement "For A Nuclear-Free Don," Cergey Kalinkin,
Chairman (Kalach-on-Don, Volgograd Region)

Public of Rostov Against the Rostovskaya Nuclear Power Station, Irina Pertseva, Chairman
(Rostov-on-Don)

"Green Wave," Nikoly Zhilkin, Chairman (Rostov-on-Don)

"Bar" Environmental Public Organization, Igor Mangazeev, Co-Chair (Tver)

"Green Wave" Regional Public Environmental Movement, Yury Fedorin, Chairman
(Cherepovets, Vologda Region)

Ecoclub "Green Branch," Lydiya Bikova, Chairman (Yaroslavl)

"Counterpart for Development" NGO Association, Lyudmila Sokova, Co-Chair (Saratov)

Citizen's Control Center on Nuclear Safety, Leonid Shenker (Khvalynsk, Saratov Region)

Biodiversity Conservation Center, Alexey V. Zimenko, General Director (Moscow)

Children of the Baltic, Olga Senova, Council Chair (Lomonosov-St. Petersburg)

Japanese NGOs (2)

Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Hideyuki Ban, Co-Director, (Tokyo)
Green Action, Aileen Mioko Smith, Director

United Kingdom NGOs (1)

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, Martin Forwood, Director (Great Britain)

European NGOs (2)

World Information Service on Energy, WISE, Peer de Rijk, Campaign Coordinator
(Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Friends of the Earth Europe, Patricia Lorentz, Anti-nuclear Campaigner (Belgium)

American NGOs (33)

Center for Safe Energy, Fran Macy, Director (California)

Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Arjun Makhijani, President (Washington
DC)

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Janet Marsh Zeller, Executive Director (Virginia,
North Carolina & South Carolina)

Committee to Bridge the Gap, Bill Magavern (national)

Women's Actions for New Directions, Pat Ortmeyer (national)

Nuclear Information and Resource Service, Michael Marriotte, Executive Director
(Washington, DC)

Carolina Peace Resource Center, Harry Rogers (South Carolina)

Sierra Club Savannah River Group, Susan Bloomfield, Nuclear Issues Chair (South Carolina &
Georgia)

Physician for Social Responsibility/Atlanta, Ed Arnold, Executive Director (Georgia)

Southwest Research and Information Center, Don Hancock (New Mexico)

Nuclear Energy Information Service, Dave Kraft, Director (Illinois)

Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program, Wenonah Hauter, Director
(Washington DC)

Coalition for a Nuclear Free Great Lakes, Michael Keegan (Michigan)

Don't Waste Michigan, Corrine Carey (Michigan)

Citizens' Resistance at Fermi Two, Keith Gunter (Michigan)

Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Christopher Williams, Executive Director, (Indiana)

NC Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, Jim Warren, Director, (North Carolina)

Government Accountability Project, Tom Carpenter, (Washington State)

Citizens for a Healthy Planet, J. Cumbow, (Michigan)

North American Water Office, George Crocker, Executive Director, (Minnesota)

Prairie Island Coalition, Bruce A. Drew, Steering Committee, (Minnesota)

Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Kay Cumbow, Director, (Michigan)

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom/Asheville, Brita Larsen Clark,
President, (North Carolina)

Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy Project, Jim Riccio, Senior Analyst, (Georgia)

Peace Farm, Mavis Belisle, Director, (Texas)

Hanford Watch, Paige Knight, President, (Oregon)

Safe Energy Communication Council, Linda Gunter, (Washington, DC)

Georgians Against Nuclear Energy, Glenn Carroll, (Georgia)

Food Not Bombs/Atlanta, Tom Ferguson, (Georgia)

Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, Marylia Kelly, Executive
Director, (California)

Physicians for Social Respionsibility, Western North Carolina Chapter, Lewis E. Patrie,
President (North Carolina)

Citizens for Environmental Justice, Dr. Mildred McClain, Director (Savannah, Georgia)

Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, Poloma Galindo, Organizer (Tennessee)

American Individuals

Representative Nan Grogan Orrock, Georgia General Assembly, President of Women
Legislators Lobby

Marci Culley, PhD, University of Missouri