From the New York Times, February 5, 1998
Better Plutonium Plan
To the Editor:
You are justifiably concerned about the slow pace of efforts to convert stored warhead plutonium in Russia to less weapons-usable forms (editorial, Feb. 1). However, it is wrong to suggest that "additional funding for the method Russia prefers" could speed up the process.
The option that Russia prefers---converting the plutonium into a fuel for as many as 18 decrepit nuclear power plants---is prohibitively expensive and risks delays, accidents, thefts and failure to reach the disarmament objective. Yet it is being pushed hard by industrial and bureaucratic interests, on both sides, who stand to benefit financially.
The other approach, "immobilizing" the plutonium by combining it with highly radioactive wastes, can dispose of it more quickly, safely and cheaply than the plutonium-fuel option. However, this does not comport with the irrational belief that this dangerous material has an "energy value" that cannot be wasted.
A sufficiently generous financial offer to Russia for an immobilization plant could win Russian cooperation and would provide a safer, more secure means to dispose of military plutonium.
Washington, Feb. 4, 1998
The writers are, respectively, president and scientific director of the Nuclear Control Institute.
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