WASHINGTON, October 9 (RIA Novosti) – Decommissioned Russian warheads are fueling “approximately half of the nuclear energy in the United States,” a senior US State Department official said Wednesday.
“Over the past 15 years, nuclear fuel from this source has accounted for approximately 10 percent of all electricity produced in the United States,” US Acting Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Rose Gottemoeller told a United Nations committee in New York.
Under a landmark 1993 nonproliferation deal, the United States has purchased uranium derived from around 20,000 Russian nuclear warheads eliminated under the accord – informally known as the “Megatons to Megawatts” program – and converted the material into nuclear fuel to be used by nearly all US nuclear power plants, Gottemoeller told the committee.
A final shipment of low-enriched uranium derived from 500 metric tons of highly-enriched uranium from Russian weapons is set to be loaded onto ships in St. Petersburg next month in the presence of US officials and delivered to the United States, she said.
“We will meet again in the United States when that ship delivers this important cargo in December,” Gottemoeller said. “We look forward to jointly celebrating this historic achievement.”
In her remarks to the committee, Gottemoeller praised bilateral nonproliferation efforts between the two countries but said what has been accomplished “is not enough.”
“The United States and Russian Federation still possess over 90 percent of the nuclear weapons in the world, and it is time we move beyond Cold War postures,” she said.
US President Barack Obama said in a speech in Berlin in June that he would negotiate to cut another one-third of US and Russian nuclear arsenals and seek “bold reductions in US and Russian tactical weapons in Europe.”
Russian officials at the time expressed doubts about the proposed cuts, but Gottemoeller said Wednesday that Washington will “pursue a treaty” with Moscow on negotiated cuts in the two sides’ respective nuclear arsenals.
Since the New START nuclear disarmament treaty entered into force in February 2011, the United States and Russia have exchanged more than 5,000 treaty notifications providing the two sides “day-to-day updates on the status of each others’ nuclear forces,” Gottemoeller said.
“These are joined by the 97 on-site inspections that we have now conducted under New START, which give us even more insights into each others’ nuclear forces, thus enhancing predictability for both countries,” she said.
The New START Treaty was signed by US President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April 2010 and was held up by both sides as the centerpiece of their vaunted campaign to “reset” rocky US-Russian relations. Hawkish US lawmakers have criticized Obama for signing the pact.
The respected Federation of American Scientists (FAS) said in a blog post on its website last week that in the past six months, the United States has increased its deployed nuclear forces and is moving slowly to implement the New START nuclear disarmament treaty even as Russia cuts its own forces well beyond treaty limits.
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Any response would likely boomerang on Russia – the partnership between Rosneft and ExxonMobil is a case in point. The United States has hit Russia with a third round of sanctions. This time the Americans went with a higher caliber weapon, targeting Russia’s biggest energy companies (Rosneft and Novatek) and banks (VEB and Gazprombank).