World’s last weapons-grade plutonium producer closed down

Russia has shut down its nuclear reactor in Zheleznogorsk, the last one able to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The fissile material plant had three reactors, but two of them have not been working since 1992. The third one was used to produce electricity and heat for the city of Zheleznogorsk ever since the Russian Ministry of Defense withdrew orders for plutonium.

Now the nuclear facility’s conventional power plant will do it instead, and next year a civilian power plant currently under construction will take over.

The decision to shut down the reactor was voiced by President Medvedev on Tuesday at the nuclear security summit in Washington. It comes with an agreement between Russia and the US for each country to scrap 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium from their stockpiles.

The nuclear graphite-uranium reactor in Zheleznogorsk has been online for a record 46 years. The employees will not take part in conserving the plant, and will later be transferred to other departments of the mining and processing company which owns the retired reactor. The company now specializes in treatment of depleted nuclear fuel.