Statement of Paul Leventhal
President, Nuclear Control Institute
presented to Hearing of
Fraktion Bundnis 90/Die Grunen
on the
Research Reactor Garching 2 (FRM-1I)
Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany
November 1, 1995



Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the FRM-II reactor, which is proposed
to be built at the Technical University-Munich in Garching. The reactor's current design
would require use of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel. Proceeding with
this design would have serious negative consequences, not only for worldwide efforts to
prevent nuclear proliferation,2 but also for Germany's international standing and

It was not very long ago that Germany was viewed internationally as perhaps the
number-one contributor to nuclear proliferation. In the 1970s and 1980s German
companies exported heavy-water to India, Israel and Argentina, low-enriched uranium to
South Africa, warhead "reflector material" to India, and uranium and tritium processing
technology together with tritium and tritium production technology to Pakistan. Germany
helped to foster the nuclear weapons programs of these nations that refused to sign the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), as well as the secret bomb-grade uranium
enrichment program in Iraq.3 Bundestag investigations in 1988-9 exposed wrongdoing
and led to significant improvements in German export-control laws and their enforcement,
which have begun to restore Germany's tarnished reputation. Germany's decision in 1990
to require full-scope safeguards as a condition of nuclear supply (and thereby ban further
exports to nations outside the NPT) brought Germany in line with long-standing U. S.
policy and helped strengthen the controls of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

However, the pending decision to use bomb-grade fuel in the FRM-II - contrary
to nearly two decades of international nonproliferation norms and practice - raises the
risk that Germany once again will be perceived around the world as contributing to the
global spread of nuclear weapons. The recent disclosure that in 1990 Iraq diverted bomb-
grade uranium fuel from safeguarded research reactors for a crash program to build
nuclear-weapon components makes clear just how dangerous "civilian" HEU can be. The
"demonstration effect" of a German decision to use HEU at Garching could have a
profound proliferation impact on the rest of the world.


In the late 1970s the international community belatedly came to the realization that
the fuel used in many nuclear research reactors - bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium -
could be stolen or diverted for nuclear weapons by nations or terrorists. In 1978, the
international community established the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test
Reactors (RERTR) program. Its mission was to develop substitute fuel of higher-density,
low enriched uranium (LEU), which is not suitable for weapons. As the substitute fuels
were developed, existing reactors would be converted to LEU and new reactors would be
designed to use LEU. The RERTR program has proved remarkably successful, facilitating
the conversion of dozens of reactors worldwide from bomb-grade to non-weapons-usable
fuel and sharply reducing international commerce in HEU.

Some 42 research reactors with power of at least 1 megawatt were built outside
the United States, originally using HEU fuel supplied by the U.S. To date, 37 either have
converted to LEU, are in the process of converting or have no further need for fuel -
which has enabled a sharp decline in U.S. HEU exports. Since the United States has
historically been the major exporter of HEU for civilian use, and in recent years the sole
exporter, this translates into a sharp reduction in total international commerce in bomb-
grade uranium.

In addition, the United States has taken steps to reduce its own use of highly
enriched uranium. In 1986, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered the
conversion of all licensed, domestic research reactors. Of the 19 such reactors, eight have
converted and another eight are in the process.

More recently, the United States has entered into agreements with Russia and
China to work on conversion of research reactors operating in, and supplied by, these
countries. The U. S . is also developing a system for production of molybdenum-99 for
medical isotopes using LEU rather than HEU targets, to further reduce the need for
civilian commerce in HEU. The fuel and target development work is led by the U. S.
Argonne National Laboratory.

The key to the RERTR program's success has been two core tenets: universality
and spent-fuel return.4 Universality has meant three things: 1) Those reactors that can
convert to existing LEU fuel must do so; 2) For remaining reactors, advanced fuel will be
developed, to which they must convert when it is successfully qualified; and 3) No new
reactors will be constructed to use HEU fuel. Reactor operators have been willing to
convert to non-weapons-usable fuel - and to accept the economic and performance
penalties of doing so - because the universality principle guaranteed that they would not
be put at a competitive disadvantage with respect to neutron research, medical-isotope
production or other reactor activities.

In keeping with this principle, the United States earlier this year abandoned plans
for a new HEU-fueled research reactor, the Advanced Neutron Source, despite the pleas
of U. S. neutron researchers. The Clinton Administration stated at the time that it made
this decision in part because the bomb-grade fuel presented "a non-proliferation policy
concern."5 The German government is now presented with the same decision on the fuel
for FRM-II.

The FRM-II Does Not Require HEU

Other witnesses today have testified to the fact that the FRM-II does not require
HEU, but I would like to underscore several points. First, the FRM-II can be redesigned
to achieve its desired experimental performance using LEU fuel that exists today and has
been qualified since 1988 - with a density of 4.8 g/cc - without additional fuel
development. At the same time, advanced fuel development has been restarted at
Argonne, contrary to inaccurate German government assertions that it has not, in response
to Bundestag questioning. In addition, France's CERCA has already fabricated higher
density LEU (6.0 g/cc) that would not only provide the equivalent experimental
performance as HEU but the same fuel-cycle duration. This higher density fuel is
scheduled to be tested in 1997-8 in France's OSIRIS reactor. However, there is no need
to await such fuel development in order to convert the FRM design to LEU today.

Conversion to LEU need not entail substantial delays in construction of the
reactor. The reactor could be redesigned to use already-qualified LEU fuel within perhaps
a year. Construction could begin on that design, and if even higher density fuel is later
successfully qualified, as expected, it could be substituted into the identical core geometry
without delay to extend the fuel cycle and improve its economics. This is precisely the
path followed by France's OSIRIS reactor, which converted to 4.8 g/cc LEU this year and
plans to test and then convert to still higher density LEU in the years ahead.

The FRM-II's conversion to LEU would not in any way affect the "scientific
position" of Germany, since the reactor's experimental performance would be essentially
the same (or perhaps better, with the higher density fuel) and no experiment would be
prevented by conversion to LEU. In addition, an LEU-fueled FRM-II would overall be no
less safe than the current, HEU design. Indeed, it is the proposed high-density, HEU fuel
that has failed to undergo safety tests, and best fits the Garching scientists' category of
"technologically unreliable components. " Also, contrary to the statement of TU-M
scientists that, "We have not yet heard any critics that have convincingly explained that
they, with vigor, would support a neutron source operated with LEU," the Nuclear
Control Institute does support the FRM-II if redesigned to use LEU.

The FRM-II Undermines Non-Proliferation Efforts

If built to use HEU, the FRM-II would undermine international nonproliferation
efforts in numerous ways:

1. A Ton of HEU Required for the FRM-II - The FRM-II is projected to require
40 kilograms of HEU annually, amounting to 1.2 metric tons over its 30-year life. Thus,
the reactor single-handedly would be responsible for the introduction of dozens of bombs'
worth of HEU into international commerce.

2. Russia Becomes New HEU Supplier - If the FRM-II uses HEU, the only
possible long-term source of supply is Russia. Traditionally, the United States supplied
HEU to European reactors, but this was curtailed under the RERTR program and then
formally halted by the Schumer Amendment to the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Existing
stocks of previously exported, U. S. -origin HEU within Euratom are insufficient to supply
European research reactors that continue to require HEU, in addition to the FRM-II over
its 30-year life. The nuclear trade press has recently reported negotiations on HEU supply
between Russia's Minatom and Euratom.6 Such a deal would undermine years of
international efforts to control Russia's vast stocks of bomb-grade uranium. Once Russia
gets a taste of hard currency from exporting HEU to Germany, it will surely look for new
customers to sell this bomb-grade "treasure." The best hope for preventing Russia's
bomb-grade uranium from falling into the wrong hands is for the West to maintain united
opposition to Russia exporting any HEU except for immediate blend-down to non-
weapons-usable LEU.

3. Existing Reactors Will Abandon RERTR - Outside of China and Libya, the
FRM-II would be the first research reactor (with power of at least 1 megawatt) built to
use bomb-grade fuel since establishment of the RERTR program. If this should happen, it
would undermine the program's core principle of universality and could well lead to
rejection of the RERTR program by operators of existing reactors. They would justifiably
ask why they should absorb the expense and inconvenience of converting their reactors to
LEU when a new reactor - that could be built to use LEU - is instead being built to use
bomb-grade fuel.

4. New Reactors Will Demand HEU- Once Germany breaks the taboo against
new reactors using HEU, it will set a precedent and send a message that modern reactors
require HEU. In the future, other countries will likewise demand the right to use HEU in
new reactors and will turn to Russia for supply of the fuel. Siemens is presumably
prepared to supply the reactor abroad. Indeed, press reports indicate that Siemens views
the FRM-II as a "prototype" for future exports. The international nonproliferation regime
will be ill-prepared to reject the demands of other countries for HEU-fueled reactors if
Germany itself uses such fuel in the FRM-II.

5. Risks of Proliferation and Terrorism Will Rise with HEU Commerce - If the
FRM-II uses HEU, Russia begins to supply it, existing reactors renew their demand for it,
and new reactors are designed to use it - international commerce in bomb-grade uranium
will expand rapidly and nearly two decades of progress by the RERTR program will be
severely undermined. As large volumes of EMU begin to be shipped again around the
globe, they will inevitably be vulnerable to theft and diversion by increasingly sophisticated
and violent terrorists and renegade states. Once HEU is obtained, construction of a
nuclear weapon is relatively straightforward, as Manhattan Project physicist Luis Alvarez
testified in his memoirs:
With modern weapons-grade uranium, the background neutron rate is so
low that terrorists, if they had such material, would have a good chance of
setting off a high-yield explosion simply by dropping one half of the
material onto the other half. Most people seem unaware that if separate
HEU is at hand it's a trivial job to set off a nuclear explosion . . . even a
high school kid could make a bomb in short order.7
Other Threats to the RERTR Program

The FRM-II is one of a number of recent developments that threaten to undermine
international support for the RERTR program. The other principal threats to RERTR are:

Reactors Refusing to Convert - Several reactor operators are violating the
principle of universality by refusing to convert their reactors even though suitable
LEU fuel is available. Outside of the United States, there are two: the JRC's HFR
Petten and South Africa's Safari I reactors. In the United States, there is only one
remaining, the Department of Energy's Brookhaven Medical (BNL) reactor, since
the Omega West (LANL) and Tower Shielding (ORNL) reactors have been shut
down. Two other U.S. facilities, the High Flux Beam (BNL) and NIST reactors,
have preliminarily been determined unable to convert to existing LEU fuels (see
next item), but further feasibility studies are required for a final deterrnination.
Proceeding with the current FRM-II design would reinforce the intransigence of
the operators of these reactors and undercut international leverage to compel their

Advanced Fuel Development - Several other reactors have not converted because
suitable LEU fuel has not been developed. Outside the U.S., there are three:
France's HFR and Orphee and Belgium's BR-2 reactors. In the U.S., there are six:
the Department of Energy's Advanced Test (INEL), High Flux Isotope (ORNL)
and High Flux Beam (BNL) reactors, the Department of Commerce's NIST
reactor and the university reactors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(MIT) and University of Missouri - Columbia. In 1989, the United States
suspended development of advanced, high-density (>4.8g/cc) LEU fuels for such
high-power research reactors - further undermining the principle of universality.
But the United States Department of State recently supplied $1.5 million to
immediately restart fuel development, with another $2.0 million expected to be
provided during the next few months by the Department of Energy, but the
primary focus appears to be for Chinese and Russian reactors. It is essential that
the United States clarify that such development will include fuels for the remaining,
unconvertible reactors in the U. S. and Europe, which is estimated to require
approximately five years.

Spent Fuel Take-Back - In 1986, the United States suspended the take-back of
U. S.-origin spent fuel from research reactors, despite long-standing commitments
to take back this fuel. If the policy is not fully renewed in an expeditious manner,
reactor operators will be forced to pay higher costs for reprocessing of their spent
fuel in Europe, removing an incentive for cooperation with the RERTR program.
Such reprocessing will also likely perpetuate the HEU fuel cycle. Moreover, some
operators may actually be forced to continue using HEU fuel since there is no
reprocessing line in Europe for LEU research reactor fuel. However, this problem
may soon be resolved because the United States is expected to issue a final
environmental impact statement and record of decision to renew the take-back
program by the end of 1995. At that point, the FRM-II would remain as perhaps
the primary obstacle to fulfillment of the RERTR program's mission.


The RERTR program is one of the unsung heroes of the International Atomic
Energy Agency and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regimes. Since 1978, the program
has made great progress in reducing HEU commerce. If the international community
provides its full support, the RERTR program can within the decade fulfill its goal of
eliminating entirely commerce in bomb-grade uranium. However, if such leading nuclear
industrial states as Germany and the United States continue the recent trend of
withholding their full cooperation from the program, it could soon collapse, resulting in a
resurgence of HEU commerce.

The RERTR program is at a historic crossroads. Only its participating members
can determine which path it will follow. Germany's decision on the FRM-II is an essential
element in determining whether the RERTR program fulfills its mission to eliminate HEU
commerce, or whether there is a rapid expansion in international HEU commerce that
significantly increases global risks of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.



l. Alan Kuperman, Senior Policy Analyst for NCI, participated in the preparation of this paper.

2. Also, see Paul Leventhal, "Testimony in Opposition to the Proposed FRM-II Nuclear Research Reactor," presented to the Bavaria Ministry for Development and Environment, May 10, 1994.

3. See, for example, Paul L. Leventhal, "Plugging the Leaks in Nuclear Export Controls: Why Bother?" Orbis (Spring 1992), pp. 169-170; Gary Milhollin, "Bonn's Proliferation Policy," The New York Times, January 4, 19S9; Gary Milhollin, "Asia's Nuclear Nightmare: The German Connection," The Washington Post, June 10, 1990.

4. The guarantee of spent fuel return (for both LEU and HEU fuel) is based on four grounds: I ) Reducing the vulnerability of spent HEU fuel to theft or diversion; 2) Abiding by long-standing U.S. commitments; 3) Inducing cooperation with the RERTR program; and 4) Avoiding an additional, perverse penalty for conversion to LEU-i.e. losing the guarantee of spent fuel return.

5. "DOE Facts: A New Neutron Source for the Nation," U.S. Department of Energy, February 1995, p. 1.

6. Mark Hibbs, "Minatom, EC to Discuss Sale of HEU for Research Reactors," NuclearFuel, September 25, 1995, p. 7.

7. Luis Alvarez, Adventures of a Physicist (Basic Books, 1987), p. 125.

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