23 September 1997


(Text: White House Release) (440)

(The following statement was released September 23, 1997 by the White
House Office of the Vice President following the ninth meeting of the
U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technical Cooperation,
also known as the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission)

U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Economic and Technological


U.S.-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement Is Signed

Vice President Al Gore announces that he and Chairman of the
Government of the Russian Federation Viktor Chernomyrdin have signed
on this date the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Production Reactor Agreement.
The agreement enters into force immediately.

This ground-breaking accord represents an additional, significant step
away from the nuclear legacy of the Cold War by placing a cap on U.S.
and Russian stockpiles of nuclear weapon-grade plutonium. It also
prohibits Russian use in nuclear weapons of recently produced
plutonium. It marks the first time that the U.S. and Russia have
placed limits on the materials for nuclear warheads themselves rather
than on their delivery vehicles such as missiles and bombers, as in
the START and INF treaties.

Under the agreement, Russia's three plutonium-producing reactors that
are in active use must be converted by 2000 so that they no longer
produce weapon-grade plutonium. The U.S. will provide assistance for
this conversion. Other such reactors that Russia is not currently
using must remain permanently closed down. Similarly, U.S.
plutonium-producing reactors, all of which have been closed down since
1989, must remain closed.

Further, Russia commits not to use in nuclear weapons any of the
weapon-grade plutonium it produces in the three operating reactors
between now and the time of their conversion. To ensure compliance
with this commitment, the U.S. will monitor such plutonium produced by
Russia since the beginning of 1995.

The agreement's extensive monitoring regime provides U.S. and Russian
monitors unprecedented access to each other's nuclear warhead
production facilities and their associated materials. U.S. monitors
will be able to ensure that closed facilities remain closed, that
operating facilities use fuel and production schedules suitable only
for non-weapon-grade material, and that recently produced plutonium
remains out of warhead production.

This agreement marks a new stage of U.S.-Russian cooperation to
regulate and safeguard nuclear materials, to limit their use in
weapons, and to build mutual confidence through increased
transparency. It is an important step forward on the path leading to
eventual negotiation of limits on warheads themselves.