November 13, 2001
A Summit Topic: Russia's Plutonium
o the Editor:
Re "An Easy Bargain With Russia" (Op-Ed, Nov. 10):
Burton Richter proposes that President Bush agree to the demand by President Vladimir V. Putin for lower strategic bomb inventories. But the proposal doesn't address what becomes of the thousands of nuclear warheads retired by each side.
The United States-Russian agreement to turn plutonium "pits" of these warheads into fuel for nuclear power plants is wrongheaded when operatives of Al Qaeda are looking for atom bomb materials.
Lax nuclear security in Russia would be aggravated by transporting tons of weapons-grade plutonium thousands of miles from pit-conversion plant to fuel-fabrication plant to nuclear power plants.
Presidents Bush and Putin should instead agree to abandon Russia's
insistence on using plutonium as fuel in return for American financial
incentives to dispose of it directly as waste.