IAEA Verification of Weapon-Origin Fissile Material in the Russian Federation and the United States

The Secretary of Energy of the United States, Spencer Abraham, Minister of the Russian Federation on Atomic Energy, Alexander Rumyantsev, and Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, met in Vienna on 18 September 2001 to review progress on the Trilateral Initiative. The Initiative was launched in 1996 to develop a new IAEA verification system for weapon-origin material designated by the United States and the Russian Federation as released from their defence programmes. The removal of weapon-origin fissile material from the defence programmes of the Russian Federation and the United States is in furtherance of the commitment to disarmament undertaken by the two States pursuant to Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). IAEA verification under this Initiative is intended to promote international confidence that fissile material made subject by either of the two States to Agency verification remains irreversibly removed from nuclear weapon programmes.

Under new verification agreements planned between the IAEA and each of the States, the Russian Federation and the United States intend to submit to IAEA verification weapon-origin fissile material. The United States also intends to submit to IAEA verification other fissile material designated by it as no longer required for defence purposes. An essential requirement of the verification system and the methods to be applied is that they must allow the IAEA to draw credible and independent conclusions to assure that the objectives of verification are met. At the same time, each State must, in keeping with its obligations under Article I of the NPT, assure that the IAEA does not gain access to information relating to the design or manufacture of such weapons.

In the technical area, the three parties are collaborating in developing and testing special verification equipment for use with classified forms of plutonium. This equipment will incorporate neutron and gamma ray measurement systems operating within a system of "information barriers" designed to allow the inspectors to derive sufficient information for the verification to be credible and independent, while preventing access to classified information. A prototype of such equipment has been demonstrated in the United States and the United States and Russian Federation are developing contracts to support the design, construction and testing of such a measurement system in the Russian Federation. The three parties are also collaborating on an inventory monitoring system that will assure the IAEA has continuity of knowledge once an item of material is verified and placed in storage to assure the material remains in storage as declared by the State.

A number of technical workshops were conducted in the past year. A technical workshop was held in the United States at the Sandia National Laboratories in November 2000 to consider appropriate inventory monitoring techniques. A second technical workshop was held at the Plutonium Fuel Production Facility of the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute in April 2001 to consider how state-of-the-art safeguards systems employed for non-proliferation purposes could be adapted for disarmament verification. In addition, a technical visit was made in March 2001 to BNFL in Sellafield, United Kingdom to observe measurement and monitoring activities in a large plutonium storage facility.

Significant progress was made in the development of a model for the Subsidiary Arrangements that provide details for the implementation of the new agreements. These Subsidiary Arrangements include such items as the facility-specific information, reporting requirements, the technical criteria for verification and the inspection procedures to be applied.

Specific facilities being considered under the agreement are the Mayak Fissile Material Storage Facility in the Russian Federation and the Savannah River K-Area Material Storage Facility and the Lynchburg Babcock and Wilcox Uranium Downblending Facility in the United States.

Secretary Abraham, Minister Rumyantsev and Director General ElBaradei reviewed the progress of the past year and committed their respective organizations to a work programme aimed at the completion of a new verification agreement, the Subsidiary Arrangements, the specific verification arrangements for the facilities identified by the States and the development of specialized verification and inventory monitoring systems.

Secretary Abraham, Minister Rumyantsev and Director General ElBaradei agreed that the Principals would meet again in September 2002 to oversee the implementation of the Trilateral Initiative.

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Last update: 9 March 2017