J u l y   1 9 9 7

Part 3

Franklyn Griffiths

George Ignatieff Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies
University College, University of Toronto
15 King's College Circle
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3H7

tel (416) 978-7417 fax (416) 971-2027

. . . back to Table of Contents

2.2. S-8 Hybrid

More likely as of mid-1997 than Immobilization-Only, the alternative here is one that seeks to avoid undue stress among the G-7, bridge differences between Russia, Europe and the United States on fuel-cycle issues, and give all major players a hand in shaping a solution they can live with. The current U.S. move toward hybrid disposition can be read as an over-hasty acceptance of writing on the wall in Russia and Europe where immobilization and resistance to plutonium fuel-cycle proliferation are concerned.[81] For their part, other G-7 members would be moved by broader geopolitical reasons to find common ground with the United States, and to reduce Russian opportunities to exploit dissention among the G-7 for political as well as economic gain. Differences among the G-7 who, aside from Japan, are leading members of NATO, do offer Moscow some opportunity to divide an Alliance that is expanding to Russia's borders. Not merely compromise but obfuscation would therefore prevail. Fuel-cycle differences would be papered over in an asymmetrical arrangement that saw the United States dispose of its own surplus domestically as it preferred, and gave France and Germany a substantial role in helping Russia to a solution. While the United States would presumably continue to meet the major portion of the cost of Russian disposition, U.S. funding would be segregated as best it could from Russian activity directly related to plutonium fuel-cycle development, which would be covered by European members of the concert. Overall, Europe would play a central role in working out a deal with Russia that helped Moscow and Washington to get on with weapons plutonium disposition while offering a promising point of business entry into the Russian nuclear market. The deal would be heavily weighted to reactor disposition at the Russian end. But there is a problem.

If Russia is not far advanced in plutonium reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication as the supply side of the plutonium fuel cycle, it is because of a major deficiency on the demand side. Like the United States, Russia has no light-water reactors that currently use MOX fuel. Unlike the United States, Russia lacks civil power reactors that can readily be adapted to the task of safe disposition of excess weapons plutonium in MOX form. Minatom has therefore sought to use the opportunity provided by disposition to enter the plutonium fuel cycle with innovative reactors which would have had to be developed as well as built.[82] Under this procedure, many years would be added to the task of disposition, and much expense. Now, in an apparent breakthrough, Minatom seems prepared to rely on existing Russian capacity, namely the VVER-1000 light-water reactor.

Seven VVER-1000 reactors are currently in operation in the Russian Federation, two additional reactors are 70-90 percent completed, and one is only 40 percent built. There are also 11 VVER-1000 reactors in Ukraine.[83] All VVER-1000 reactors would have to be modified to accept MOX fuel charges. Significant safety and reliability considerations enter the picture here. Even if they can be met for the Russian VVER-1000s, seven of them functioning with one-third MOX fuel loading are incapable of completing the disposition of 50 tonnes of excess weapons plutonium within the 30-year lifetimes of these reactors. In order to complete a 50-tonne disposition mission -- to say nothing of Russian disposition to equal levels of retained weapons plutonium -- either the lives of the seven operational plants would have to be extended, they would have to take MOX charges greater than one-third of core, the three remaining plants would have to be completed at an estimated cost of $1-1.5-billion,[84] or Ukrainian VVER 1000 reactors would also have to be joined to Russia's disposition effort.

If all ten Russian VVER-1000 were successfully adapted to MOX use with one-third MOX loading, and with conversion of the operational reactors completed by 2001-2003, they could accomplish a task of 50-tonnes weapons plutonium disposition by 2028,[85] provided that all went not only safely but well. Russia's commitment to the plutonium fuel cycle would however make it difficult for the United States to fund the completion of the three remaining VVER-1000s. But industry and government in France and Germany have a more favourable view of the VVER-1000 and Russia's capacity for safe disposition. Parallel to their cooperation with Russia on MOX fuel fabrication, Cogema and Siemens have launched a project to evaluate the potential for full-core loading of MOX fuel in the VVER-1000, the procedure to be confirmed by 2001.[86] The French and German governments, however, have remained reserved in their readiness to fund Russia's acquisition of new reactor or MOX fuel manufacturing capacity.[87] As to whether Ukrainian VVER-1000s might also be brought to bear, Russian-Ukrainian relations are troubled but improving. In April 1997, the United States prevailed upon Ukraine not to provide turbines for the two nuclear reactors that Minatom is providing to Iran,[88] a potential nuclear-weapons state. In May, however, Russia and Ukraine opened the way to an enlargement of their cooperation with the signing of a friendship treaty. Ukrainian reactors could therefore form part of an S-8 Hybrid arrangement for the disposition of a total of 100 tonnes of excess Russian and U.S weapons plutonium (Table 1, cell 3). But major difficulties would still have to be resolved.

The United States is not going to lead willingly in financing and assisting in the construction of reactors that will form part of Russia's transition to the plutonium fuel cycle once a 100-tonne disposition mission is achieved. The same applies to MOX fuel fabrication in Russia. For the parties to leave such matters to determination after disposition were done would be for the United States to surrender its position on the spread of closed-cycle technology. As to the Russian Federation, it is obviously not going to agree to purpose-built reactors that would be torn down on completion of weapons disposition, or to undertake never to reprocess spent weapons MOX fuel for civil use. Europe, for its part, is not going to take Russian or U.S. weapons MOX for burnup in Europe, assuming the two supplier states were willing, since there is a surplus of MOX on the continent and no room for new commercial competition.[89] Accordingly, if an S-8 Hybrid arrangement is to be worked out for the disposition of 100 tonnes, France and Germany could be faced with large outlays for the modification and possibly the construction of Russian reactors, based on a finding that the VVER-1000 can be made safe and efficient for weapons MOX disposition. Russia could of course be asked to share some of the cost in covering its safe reactor deficit, but then an S-8 Hybrid solution might lose some of its appeal in Moscow. All the while, the United States would retain the option to refuse to compromise on the plutonium fuel cycle, to proceed unilaterally with its own disposition, and to leave Russia's problems primarily to Europe except for any portion Russia wished to immobilize.

Somewhere in all of this there may be grounds for agreement, but the closer one looks at an S-8 Hybrid arrangement, the murkier it becomes. Moreover, if the required amount for disposition by the Russian Federation on Russian soil is not 50 but 100 tonnes or more, in order to meet foreseeable U.S. congressional demands in appropriating the necessary funds, everything becomes substantially more difficult to manage. What with Minatom's lack of reactor capacity, an S-8 Hybrid agreement providing for timely reduction to equal levels of retained weapons plutonium would almost certainly require that Ukrainian or, now, Canadian reactors be brought into play (Table 1, cell 4). If Ukraine were to participate with U.S. support, it would no doubt be solely to help draw down the Russian excess, and not to move on to the plutonium fuel cycle. Identical fuel would be made in Russia for Russian and Ukrainian VVER-1000 reactors. In the Canadian case, a trilateral Canadian-Russian-U.S. agreement allowing for U.S. as well as Russian disposition in Canada would form part of a larger S-8 Hybrid solution that somehow finessed the plutonium fuel-cycle issue to achieve retained weapons plutonium parity for Russia and the United States. Weapons MOX fuel would be manufactured in Russia both for Russian VVER-1000s that would proceed to civil plutonium use, and for CANDU reactors. Not surprisingly, given Canada's laxity on the plutonium fuel cycle, DFAIT reports a finding that a French- or German-built MOX plant in Russia could be adapted to the manufacture of CANDU MOX fuel bundles "also."[90]

Murkiness notwithstanding, a few things start to become clear about S-8 Hybrid disposition when it is viewed from a Canadian standpoint. Whatever the details of an arrangement to deal with only a total of 100 tonnes of excess Russian and U.S. weapons plutonium, if reliance on the VVER-1000 proves justified, disposition of the Russian 50-tonne surplus would be done in Russia, or in Russia and Ukraine (Table 1, cell 3). Canada and the Canadian nuclear industry would be excluded from a role, owing to the U.S. ruling that it will not consider Canadian-based disposition without a trilateral agreement with the Russian Federation. Canada could however be invited to participate if the use of the VVER-1000 does not work out. Canada could also decline any such invitation. Aside from the fact that a 100-tonne disposition mission is unlikely to be sustained by the U.S. Congress, Canada could seek the maximum possible reduction of weapons plutonium if it was going to participate. Indeed, if the CANDU MOX option were to be left on the table, Canada could state that it would have nothing to do with a reference mission of 100 tonnes, but would be willing to accept a portion of the excess required to achieve weapons plutonium parity. Among other reasons, it would take this position because the direct costs of Canadian-based disposition to Canadians could be such as to deny public support to for anything but a major Canadian role and the enhanced international standing and leverage that might be expected to come from it.

A trilateral agreement providing for Canadian-based reactor burnup could therefore figure in a larger S-8 Hybrid arrangement for the disposition of a 150-tonne excess with some degree of reliance on the VVER-1000: the less the latter were used, the larger the call would be on Canadian reactor capacity (Table 1, cell 4). As well, it now becomes clear that once the option of CANDU MOX disposition was placed on the table, the logic of the situation was such as to make Canada and Ukraine into potential competitors in handling the Russian excess. If Kiev proved willing to process a portion of the Russian surplus that might otherwise go to Canada, Ottawa could yield to their desire and not get in their way unless it were fully convinced it had a superior solution.

The task of weapons plutonium disposition being as convoluted as it is, the Canadian government should not be pursing a one-track policy on behalf of the CANDU MOX initiative. Rather, it should act on a two-track policy which treats immobilization as the prime Canadian preference and, if Canadian-based disposition can be made acceptable to Canadians, contributes to the realization of an S-8 Hybrid agreement that produces parity in Russian-U.S. retained weapons plutonium in short order. What then of CANDU MOX disposition as a stand-alone arrangement distinct from an agreement among the S-8?

2.3. Trilateral Hybrid

Viewed strictly in relation to alternative international means of disposition, and without reference to the question of whether the benefits and costs of the measure might make it acceptable to Canadians, free-standing CANDU MOX disposition turns out to be a viable proposition. First, with a significant change in the Canadian proposal, it would allow the G-7 and the Russian Federation a means of decoupling some or, in principle, all of the task of weapons plutonium disposition from the issue of fuel-cycle constraint. Decoupling would be achieved by means of a Canadian declaration that defined the CANDU MOX option as a unique use of Canadian reactors solely for purposes of weapons plutonium disposition and with no potential whatsoever for closed fuel-cycle use, which would be excluded in Canada and denied to the foreign operations of Canadian corporations. A declaration along these lines would terminate Canada's permissive attitude to the use of plutonium fuel-cycle technology. More important for our present purposes, it would reduce the need for the United States to compromise in securing an agreement: whereas Washington would make concessions on MOX manufacture and the eventual use of MOX fuel in Russia, it would not be required to subsidize Russia's acquisition of reactor capacity which could later be used with civil plutonium. Second, use of CANDU reactors at the Bruce nuclear generating station could provide an answer to Russia's safe reactor deficit. Third, Trilateral Hybrid disposition offers comparative ease of negotiation and implementation in accomplishing a variety of disposition missions of up to 115 tonnes, and more if some 30 tonnes of separated but weapons-usable Russian civil plutonium were also brought into play. Taken together, these could be significant advantages, again if it is assumed that the benefits and costs to Canadians make Canadian-based reactor disposition worthwhile.

Preconditions for international acceptance of the CANDU MOX option could be relatively straightforward. The Immobilization-Only and S-8 Hybrid alternatives would run into difficulty. What with the ability of the United States to meet its own disposition requirements unaided, the U.S. choice would be to act unilaterally, or to accede to a Canadian-based disposition arrangement that brought the Russian Federation to disposition without any greater breach in plutonium fuel-cycle constraint than would currently be accepted by Washington in the case of reactor disposition in the United States. As to Russia, it would refuse to embrace immobilization, or to practice plutonium fuel-cycle restraint. At some point, however, Moscow would recognize that an S-8 Hybrid option was unlikely either to provide adequate support for reactor modernization in Russia, or to produce acceptable financial terms. In these circumstances, Moscow would turn to the CANDU MOX option, rather than risk U.S. unilateralism and loss of payment for its weapons plutonium surplus. The scene would be set for closure on a framework agreement that had been under discussion by the three governments. This agreement would provide for the transfer of approximately 15 tonnes that was not to be immobilized or irradiated from the U.S. 50-tonne excess, and for an amount from the Russian Federation. In principle, the Russian amount could range from 33 to 100 tonnes (Table 1, cells 5-8).

In practice, the need to dispose of a combined excess of 150 tonnes would eliminate 100-tonne trilateral options (Table 1, cells 5 and 7), unless agreement between the two supplier countries allowed for them to proceed in stages to 150 tonnes. If so, and if the first stage called for a combined reduction of 100 tonnes of which a portion went to immobilization and nuclear utilities in the United States, Canada would receive not more than about 30 tonnes under the option of symmetrical Russian and U.S. disposition (Table 1, cell 5), and 65 tonnes if Russia were persuaded to commit 50 tonnes in an asymmetrical arrangement (Table 1, cell 7). France and Germany, aside from having an initial or continuing role in the manufacture of CANDU MOX fuel for Russia and the United States under both of these options, and indeed for all variants of Trilateral Hybrid disposition, could be invited to take part in Russia's reactor disposition of the 35-tonne remainder (Table 1, cell 5). They would however be excluded from the use of reactors in an asymmetrical Canadian-based disposition of 100 tonnes (Table 1, cell 7), which is more emphatically transatlantic in nature. Given Russian affinities with France and Germany on civil plutonium use, and also possible Russian reluctance to assign considerably more than the United States of only a 50-tonne excess to Canada, symmetrical Trilateral disposition of 30 tonnes seems more likely as an outcome than an asymmetrical disposition of 65 tonnes in arranging for the first stage of a reduction to retained weapons plutonium parity.

If the goal of a trilateral agreement were the disposition of a combined weapons plutonium excess of 150 tonnes in one go, ways would have to be found to process up to 100 tonnes of the disproportionate Russian surplus. Under a symmetrical arrangement aimed at a reduction of 150 tonnes (Table 1, cell 6), Russia and the United States would again commit some 15 tonnes each to Canada, the United States would immobilize roughly 17 tonnes, and the Russian Federation would retain about 85 tonnes for disposition as it saw fit. Again, the amount given over to immobilization would likely be very small because, "In Russia, nearly all residues and wastes containing significant quantities of plutonium are to be treated to separate the plutonium oxide forms... with disposal of the remaining wastes from which the plutonium has been removed."[91] This option would therefore require substantial Western support for Russian reactor development, whether or not Ukrainian VVER-1000s were enlisted. As such, it would share the disabilities of S-8 Hybrid disposition of 150 tonnes (cell 4), with the difference that CANDU participation would now be held to 15 tonnes of the Russian excess.

Alternatively, under an asymmetrical Trilateral agreement aiming to achieve retained weapons plutonium parity rapidly, the Russian Federation would commit not much less than 100 tonnes to Canadian-based disposition (Table 1, cell 8). The Bruce nuclear generating station would therefore receive approximately 115 tonnes for disposition, Europe would be dealt out of the action, and Russian-U.S. differences over the plutonium fuel cycle would very largely be circumvented. Perhaps the most elegant of all solutions to the problem of excess weapons plutonium disposition, an asymmetrical Trilateral Hybrid arrangement to achieve prompt parity in retained weapons plutonium would entail heavy reliance on untried CANDU MOX technology, a willingness on the part of the United States to meet the Russian price, and a Russian decision to maximize income by transferring as much weapons plutonium to Canada as possible. "In for a penny, in for a pound" would be the motto for Canada and Russia alike. Given a 4.2-tonne annual rate of disposition and beginning around 2010, the task here would occupy the Bruce B reactors to about 2040.

How then might Canada rank its preferences for CANDU MOX disposition if the Canadian initiative were to be maintained? As a would-be recipient state, Canada currently has only one declared option, which is to take whatever the suppliers will allow. This will not do. Once again, Immobilization-Only and resistance to the spread of the plutonium fuel cycle should be Canada's first preference. If immobilization could not be had and if the MOX initiative were agreed by Canadians not to expose them to substantial and unwarranted direct costs, Canada could consider making its reactor capacity available only for the disposition of roughly 115 tonnes of the total Russian and U.S. excess of 150 tonnes in a single-stage reduction (Table 1, cell 8). This it would do in order to maximize the Canadian contribution to nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, and to maximize whatever leverage the Canadian contribution might yield on other international issues. Similarly, Canada could refuse to contribute its reactors to an S-8 Hybrid solution (Table 1, cell 4), or to symmetrical Trilateral Hybrid disposition (cells 5 and 6), all of which would have the effect of substantiating Russia's transition to the plutonium fuel cycle. Nor would Canada be willing to entertain an asymmetrical Trilateral Hybrid reduction of only 100 tonnes (Table 1, cell 7). As to Ukraine, if it had a superior contribution to make, Canada would defer to it.

But all of this has been to stress quantities of weapons plutonium and how they might be reduced, as distinct from the qualities of the material to be processed and also retained. To this point, I have been emphasizing process at the expense of substance. Viewed in its entirety, the disposition of excess weapons plutonium does impress most in the immensity of the process that is now being set in motion to achieve an agreement. It should however be asked whether we are we not only at the beginning of a formidable procedure in which Canada might have a part, but on the way to finding authentic solutions to the international security problems that confront us. Would CANDU MOX disposition, in addition to furthering the process of reaching agreement on excess weapons plutonium reduction, make a real difference for nuclear non-proliferation and for nuclear disarmament?

3. International Security Benefits

CANDU MOX proponents and their backers in the government of Canada assert that Canadian-based reactor disposition offers substantial international benefits at no cost to Canadians. Potential costs we can consider shortly. My concern at this point is to gain a clear idea of the international security benefits that might be had. By benefits I mean not so much political reassurance that something useful will be done in due course, or that the productivity of perennial international security discussions will be increased. Rather, I mean primarily gains in physical security against threats of the spread and the use of nuclear weapons which stem from the availability of excess weapons plutonium in the Russian Federation and the United States. Let us therefore examine contributions that might be made by the CANDU MOX initiative in reducing the threat of nuclear proliferation, after which we will take a look at possible benefits for nuclear disarmament.

3.1. Nuclear Non-proliferation

Thus far, it has been the argument of this study that if nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation are given equal standing as goals of a Canadian international security policy, both are equally well met when immobilization is the preferred means of disposition. Weapons material is taken out of circulation and made difficult for the disposing states, potential nuclear weapons states, and terrorist organizations to access. But when reactor disposition is the preferred means, non-proliferation suffers relative to nuclear disarmament. This is because reactor use keeps plutonium in circulation and serves to legitimize fuel-cycle technology, no matter what disclaimers are made. Immobilization ought therefore to be the preferred Canadian option for disposition. CANDU MOX proponents of course see the problem differently.

As they and others suggest in pointing to the dangers of Russian nuclear leakage, the proliferation threat inherent in excess weapons plutonium emanates primarily from the Russian Federation and the inadequacy of its nuclear materials custodial system. The best thing, in the proponents' view, is to get the material out of Russia and into CANDU reactors in Canada. In truth, no one who considers the risks of proliferation which stem from surplus Russian and U.S. weapons plutonium can expect great danger of theft or illicit diversion from the United States. Nevertheless, an element of discrimination is needed in our assessment of Russia's potential to supply proliferators or terrorist organizations, or to weaken the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Russian authorities are not uniformly incompetent in matters of nuclear materials control. And there is also a demand side to the proliferation equation. Taking it into account affects our view of the dangers of Russian supply.

Much is made of the proliferation perils in Russia these days. Horror stories are cited to suggest significant Russian smuggling into an emerging international nuclear black market.[92] Without doubt there is a proliferation threat here, and Minatom's inability to account for and properly control its plutonium holdings is a part of it. The same can be said of Russia's Ministry of Defence. Also worrying is the fact that a crude nuclear weapon can be made by a group of terrorists or, for that matter, students in a machine shop if fissile material of sufficient purity is available. But potential nuclear-weapons states are neither interested in crude nuclear weapons nor engaged in programmes at the machine-shop level. On the contrary, they will be committed to industrial-strength activity involving substantial commitments to basic science, applied research, and engineering in order to produce as sophisticated nuclear weapons as they are capable of. Intermittent and unreliable black-market supply from Russia may be of occasional use to them in obtaining materials and components, but it is unlikely to replace large-scale acquisition programmes as long as the Russian Federation maintains and is helped to strengthen its nuclear materials custodial system.[93] As to terrorist organizations, they too could benefit from the episodic leakage of Russian fissile material and know-how in a world in which up to 1,200 tonnes of civil plutonium are also in circulation. Still, the acquisition of non-nuclear means of devastation would seem to be the more attractive option, as evidenced most recently by the Aun Shinrikyo sect in Japan. Viewed in this light, the nuclear proliferation threat that is associated with the Russian Federation does not reside exclusively in the potential for theft and illicit diversion of weapons plutonium, but may also be found in the willingness of Minatom itself to provide quasi-legal international assistance to states such as Iran which would acquire nuclear weapons.[94] Under CANDU MOX disposition, however, Minatom would be Ontario Hydro's partner in a long-term relationship aimed very substantially at nuclear non-proliferation.

The plutonium-related proliferation threats that arise within Russia stem from the following, in ascending order of magnitude: (1) weaponized strategic warheads on Russian land- and sea-based missiles and on strategic bombers under the authority of the Ministry of Defence; (2) strategic and tactical nuclear warheads and plutonium pits in various stages of dismantlement under the jurisdiction of Minatom; (3) Minatom's readiness to risk nuclear technology transfer to potential nuclear-weapons states; and (4) the stock of deployed and stored tactical nuclear weapons held by the Ministry of Defence. To ease a complex discussion, let us begin by considering potential non-proliferation benefits of the CANDU MOX initiative as it might relate to the holdings of the Ministry of Defence. After this, we will turn to potential advantages of Canadian-based reactor disposition in coping with the domestic and international incontinence of Minatom.

Least urgent from the standpoint of nuclear proliferation is the plutonium deployed and stockpiled in intact strategic nuclear warheads under the control of the Ministry of Defence (MOD). These warheads are relatively large, unwieldy, and closely guarded in relatively few locations when not fitted to delivery systems. As of January 1997, there were roughly 6,700 of them in Russia.[95] Depending on the portion which the Russian Federation wishes to retain in an inoperative strategic reserve, MOD will be obliged to transfer a number of strategic nuclear warheads to Minatom for dismantlement and weapons plutonium disposition. This it will do as Russia meets its START II projected limit of some 3,100 deployed strategic warheads and, now coterminous with START II reductions, a START III limit down to 2,500 warheads which is to be achieved by December 31, 2007.[96] Given the state of Minatom's custodial system, however, a case can be made for "strategic escrow." This measure would see Russia's treaty-governed strategic warheads subjected to intensified security by MOD and withheld from Minatom until its materials control problem had been contained.[97] In other words, today and for as long as it takes Minatom to get its act together, MOD is to be regarded as the preferred agency for Russian control over its weaponized strategic plutonium. This seems sensible to me. Canada, however, is proposing without condition that excess Russian strategic warheads be handed over to Minatom for dismantlement and the processing of plutonium pits into MOX fuel.

Implementation of the CANDU MOX initiative as presently formulated would produce a net loss of Russian control over its strategic weapons plutonium. Material which is comparatively secure from diversion and theft would be added to the stock that Minatom currently holds and may not be able to secure adequately for some time to come. Where strategic weapons plutonium is concerned, therefore, the effect of the Canadian initiative as it stands is actually to increase the risks of nuclear proliferation from Russia. If the initiative is to be maintained, Canada should stipulate in a trilateral agreement with Russia and the United States that Minatom's materials control capabilities are to be enhanced according to agreed criteria before Canadian-based reactor disposition would begin. As well, looking ahead to the day when disposition might begin, Canada itself should now be making a direct technical contribution to the enhancement of Minatom's ability to meet its materials control and nuclear non-proliferation responsibilities. But here we run into a contradiction in the CANDU MOX initiative which we shall encounter again: the more Minatom's materials control capacity is improved prior to Canadian-based reactor disposition, the less the threat of nuclear proliferation which is a major justification for the initiative as it stands.

Whereas MOD is to be preferred over Minatom in the handling of excess plutonium associated with strategic nuclear warheads, the preference is reversed for Russia's tactical nuclear weapons to the extent that otherwise intact warheads would at least be disassembled under Minatom's authority. At issue here are artillery shells, land mines, surface-to-air missiles, naval missiles, gravity bombs, and other arms whose total number is estimated at between 6,000-13,000.[98] The warheads for these weapons, usually stored separately in special depots, are guarded by personnel who, not unlike those of Minatom, may be open to bribery and influence by Russian nationals acting on behalf of foreign clients. The difference is that the warheads are smaller, more moveable, widely dispersed, and not as well secured as strategic weapons. As such, they constitute the prime proliferation threat from within the Russian Federation today.

Although the United States and, at that time, the Soviet Union and then Russia pledged in parallel unilateral statements in late 1991 and early in 1992 to withdraw all sea-based and land-based tactical nuclear weapons from deployment, they remain exempt from disarmament agreement. Nor does the United States have a reliable understanding of how well Russia has implemented its unilateral commitment. Accordingly, Washington now seeks a discussion of tactical nuclear weapons with Moscow in the context of negotiations for a START III treaty.[99] Increasingly, however Russia's military security is based on its tactical nuclear arms, this as a consequence of the collapse of its conventional forces and NATO's expansion to the east.[100] MOD, by its own account, may have transferred a significant portion of its tactical nuclear weapons to Minatom for disassembly and storage of recovered pits.[101] But until negotiations are begun and completed for a category of weapon that is of growing importance to the Russian Federation, not a lot more is likely to be handed over to Minatom. Similarly, until MOD is able to gain firmer control over its inventory, the proliferation threat inherent in Russian tactical nuclear weapons will persist.

Substantial improvement in MOD's capacity for tactical nuclear weapons control cannot wait. The U.S. government recognizes this, for example in the assistance being given by the Department of Defense to its Russian counterpart in developing an automated nuclear weapons inventory system.[102] To the extent that stronger control is achieved by MOD, the proliferation threat associated with the potential for diversion or theft of Russian tactical nuclear weapons will have abated, and another non-proliferation objective of the CANDU MOX initiative would have been met by alternative means by the time Canadian-based disposition began. And if there were no great improvement in MOD nuclear materials control, and no great progress towards a tactical nuclear weapons disarmament treaty, reactor disposition of excess weapons plutonium in Canada beginning around 2010 would continue to be very largely irrelevant to the dangers of proliferation associated with this category of weapon: MOD's tactical nuclear weapons plutonium would be withheld from Minatom.

If CANDU MOX disposition is really to produce physical security against risks of nuclear proliferation which arise from Russia's tactical nuclear weapons, MOD's materials control effort has to fail and tactical nuclear disarmament has to succeed. Otherwise, Canada would lumber on for up to 25 years after 2010 consuming plutonium from weapons that constituted a diminished proliferation threat, or it would be denied this plutonium and the opportunity to make it secure against diversion and use. Similar considerations apply to the non-proliferation potential of Canadian dealings with Minatom, and with the weapons plutonium that is now under its authority and may be transferred to it in future.

Both for the weaponized plutonium that may in future be handed over to Minatom and for intact weapons awaiting dismantlement and separated pits already in Minatom's custody, the proliferation problem is essentially a problem in nuclear materials control, not reactor disposition. The accounting and control procedures of a ministry with very many underemployed, underpaid, and unpaid employees in an archipelago of locations do leave a great deal to be desired. To assist Minatom (and also MOD), the United States has been engaged in a programme of cooperative threat reduction with the Russian Federation. The programme is showing some signs of success, principally in assisting Minatom to design and build a central storage facility for dismantled nuclear weapons.[103] The U.S. effort has however been endangered by congressional budget cuts, and by Russian unilateralism and resistance to measures that would ensure transparency in their nuclear materials accounting and storage procedures. Cooperative threat reduction is nevertheless the top priority for those who would address the threat of nuclear proliferation connected with the indeterminate number of tonnes of weapons plutonium in Minatom's hands.

Canada may not be in a position to offer materials control assistance to Russia's Ministry of Defence, but the opportunity is surely quite different when it comes to a ministry with which a long-term working relationship is to be established. If the Canadian and Ontario governments, along with the proponents of the CANDU MOX initiative, are to be in earnest about nuclear non-proliferation, they should strive to make a vigorous contribution to Minatom's materials control and accounting capacity now. This they are not doing. Instead, they dwell on the anti-proliferation benefits of Canadian-based reactor disposition, which would begin at the end of the next decade (earlier, they say), as a means of dealing with an urgent problem of Russian nuclear leakage which is presumably not going to go away. The emphasis is misplaced. Time and money should go first to cooperative threat reduction.

As of about 2010, Canada could start to make a physical security contribution by removing excess weapons plutonium from Russia and whatever dangers of diversion and theft Minatom continued to pose to as late as 2035, depending on the CANDU MOX disposition mission. The extent of the contribution is difficult to estimate. If Minatom's materials control capacity remained as it is today, the non-proliferation benefit could be considerable. If, on the other hand, the Russian nuclear leakage threat had been substantially contained by 2010, CANDU MOX disposition would become something of a non-proliferation solution in search of a problem. All the while, however, another form of benefit could have been achieved in the signing of a trilateral agreement, in receiving the first MOX shipment, and in carrying through with disposition. We are back to process.

Canadian actions in following through on the MOX initiative would serve to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime not so much by resolving or greatly reducing the nuclear leakage problem, but by assisting the two leading nuclear-weapons states to meet their obligation to non-nuclear states to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons. Whatever the physical security benefits it might produce, CANDU MOX disposition would likely have its principal non-proliferation effects on the political plane. Intangible and therefore hard to assess, they could still be substantial. They could also be offset by foreseeable political costs of a protracted working relationship with Minatom.

No one can foresee what Minatom will venture in its international transactions to the 'twenty-thirties. Today it is an unreconstructed ministry at the heart of Russia's national security apparatus. Russia's future may lie ultimately with the westernizing impulse in the nation, in which case Minatom will find its way into an increasingly dense web of collaboration with Western countries, the United States and Canada included. This surely is the preferable course of events. It would help to deepen Minatom's culture of nuclear responsibility in domestic as well as international affairs. Right now, however, Minatom prefers to cooperate with France and Germany for fuel-cycle and possibly larger geopolitical reasons. As well, both to survive and to prosper in the depressed circumstances of the Russian economy, it endeavours to sell reactors to whoever will buy them, claiming that all safeguards mandated by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty will be honoured. Minatom's reactor sale to Iran is the principal example of what might be called roguishness in Russia's international nuclear behaviour thus far. Although NATO enlargement is now received with outward good grace on Moscow's part, the resentment that is felt throughout the Russian establishment has yet to be expressed. When it is, it will likely involve strategic moves that run counter to Western interests, particularly those of the United States, even as Moscow seeks continued cooperation. Further quasi-legal nuclear transfers to "rogue" states could well form part of Russia's pursuit of a distinct Eurasian future. If not, no problem. If so, Canada and Ontario would have to think through what might be involved in relying very substantially upon Minatom to achieve international non-proliferation goals.

There is no easy answer here. Nor is there any indication that the Canadian and Ontario governments and the CANDU MOX proponents have given the matter serious consideration. A few things do however seem clear. First, a Western and therefore Canadian endeavour to foster a culture of nuclear responsibility and legality in Russia can only be realized by engaging Minatom in collaborative action, whatever one's judgment on the plutonium fuel cycle and specific transactions between Minatom and potential nuclear-weapons states. To leave Russia and Minatom to their own nuclear devices would be irresponsible. Second, as already made clear, nuclear materials control and not nuclear materials disposition should be the first order of business in engaging Minatom. Measures to this effect should be built into an S-8 Hybrid or Trilateral agreement as a precondition for disposition. Third, if the government of a smaller country such as Canada is not to be burned but to make the most of a disposition relationship with Russia, it should be multilateral and designed to help modernize Minatom's commercial and well as materials control norms and practices. Accordingly, if the CANDU MOX initiative is to be proceeded with, there is much to be said for joining with the United States and assigning a lead role to private industry in working with Minatom. Fourth, if Canadians were to persist in a long-term effort to integrate the Russian Federation into the international scheme of things in commercial as well as non-proliferation terms, they would have to be fully prepared to accept setbacks and embarrassments arising from Minatom's international operations.

In the foregoing we have the elements of a rationale for Canadian-based reactor disposition that is surely more viable than one keyed to physical security dangers of Russian nuclear leakage, against which the CANDU MOX initiative proves to be ineffectual when it is not counterproductive. Whether such a rationale and its implicit endorsement of permissiveness on fuel-cycle issues is to be judged acceptable will depend on further assessment of the costs as well as benefits of the initiative. But before turning to nuclear disarmament benefits, we should be aware of some additional costs to nuclear non-proliferation. They all pertain to the plutonium fuel cycle.

In acting on the CANDU MOX initiative, Canada and also the United States would in all likelihood have to accept Russia's use of MOX fuel fabrication facilities for the manufacture of civil fuel as well as MOX derived from excess weapons plutonium. Similarly, they would have to accept Russian reprocessing of spent weapons MOX fuel for civil purposes if Russia agreed only to symmetrical disposition in Canada, and disposed of its disproportionate remainder domestically in reactors destined to use civil plutonium. Although both procedures could be delayed until the termination of weapons plutonium disposition, by acquiescing in them Canada and the United States would by force of example contribute indirectly to nuclear proliferation. Where Canada in particular is concerned, there is an additional reason here to prefer asymmetrical Canadian-based disposition of up to 115 tonnes which would eliminate the potential for Russia to reprocess spent MOX fuel by removing nearly all of the weapons plutonium excess from Russia.

Finally, as the U.S. Department of Energy points out, not only has the use of MOX fuel in CANDU reactors never been attempted but, if successful in Canada, it would represent a commercial demonstration of the use of plutonium in CANDU reactors possessed by other countries in "regions of proliferation concern."[104] Canadian-based disposition of excess weapons plutonium could indeed erode barriers to the use of plutonium in civil reactors, beginning with Argentina, Romania, South Korea, and Taiwan who possess CANDUs. As matters stand, AECL is seeking to support its bid to construct six CANDU-6 reactors in South Korea with "the so-called Dupic research program, funded by the U.S. and Canada, to devise a closed fuel cycle in the ROK without reprocessing, allowing recycling of spent PWR [pressurized-water reactor] fuel in CANDUs."[105] China, for its part, could seek to adapt the CANDU reactors which it has purchased, to the use of reprocessed plutonium. As well, there is the question of what Minatom might do with a capacity of its own to manufacture CANDU MOX fuel once weapons plutonium disposition were done. Beyond all this, it is fair to say that no matter what Ottawa's contention about the uniqueness of a Canadian weapons disposition effort, about the dangers of plutonium fuel-cycle spread, or the cost of MOX relative to standard CANDU fuel, Canadian use of plutonium in civil reactors would add to the risks of proliferation by virtue of Canada's capacity to set an example of responsible behaviour in civil nuclear affairs. Present levels of physical security against nuclear proliferation would be reduced if the CANDU MOX initiative were to be implemented. Costs incurred through commercial demonstration and example-setting could largely if not wholly negate whatever benefit the initiative's implementation might produce for the international process of nuclear non-proliferation.

NEXT: MOX Experience, Part 4

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