Foreign Press Center Briefing Transcript
THE U.S.-RUSSIAN PLUTONIUM
Dr. Michael Guhin, U.S. Negotiator
and Representative for Plutonium Disposition
Thursday, June 29, 2000, 2:05 P.M. EDT
MR. GUHIN: Thank you very much. I appreciate this opportunity to address this topic, and I want to thank you, first of all, for being here.
Plutonium disposition, of course, is a very long word, but it's something that is important for all of us. It's important to all of our -- us as people. It's also important to all countries.
And I hope -- what I'd like to talk about today is why plutonium disposition is a subject on which the international community -- and I would stress "the international community" -- cannot afford to fail. And I hope the reasoning will become clearer as we discuss it today.
One of the critical challenges of nuclear disarmament is how to guarantee that material that comes out of nuclear weapons -- for example, in this case, plutonium -- is never again used for weapons, or how to guarantee that it never falls into the wrong hands. I think we would all agree that these guarantees are critical. Tens of tons of weapon-grade plutonium have already been declared excess. That amount represents literally thousands of nuclear weapons. If we make more progress in nuclear disarmament, which we hope very much that we will in time, then there will be more of this material; there will be tens of tons more.
So as was announced at the Moscow summit, Presidents Clinton and Putin announced that we had concluded this agreement to provide these guarantees, to provide these guarantees so that will never ever again be used for nuclear weapons. All of this plutonium comes from weapon programs. All of this plutonium is readily usable in the forms that it is in for nuclear weapons.
So what does plutonium disposition mean? It means, in the first instance, taking this very high-grade, readily usable weapon material and changing it into a form that is basically not usable for nuclear weapons, changing it into a form that is common in the world. It's still a form that will need to be monitored, it's still a form that needs to be protected, but it is not -- not -- usable or directly usable in nuclear weapons.
And how are we going to do that? We're going to do that by one of two methods. Experts have studied these methods now for some years. There are only two methods by which we can do it today.
One is to take the plutonium from weapons, and you actually integrate it into fuel, nuclear fuel, with uranium. And that fuel is used to generate electricity. And in that process that plutonium is degraded. We call it "burned". The plutonium is burned, so that when you complete that process, that plutonium, one is in spent fuel, and is -- along with a lot of radioactive products, so it cannot be used in weapons. But two, even the plutonium itself, if it's ever separated, is not of the grade that we or Russia or whomever we would think -- and certainly no nuclear weapons state would ever use in a nuclear weapon.
The second approach to disposition is to immobilize. That's another -- have no idea what it means, but what "immobilization" means is to take this plutonium, mix it with other materials, and then put it in very large canisters surrounded by high level radioactive waste suitable for storage. It's immobilized in the sense that nobody in -- as we would say, nobody would want or think or be attracted to ever looking at that and saying, Ahah, there is a source of plutonium I can get for weapons.
So what will be required to do this? What will be required to do this will be a lot of preparatory work -- that means research, development, design -- both in immobilization and in this what we call mock fuel. This nuclear fuel is called mock fuel -- be an enormous amount of preparatory work over the next two or three years. Then there will need to be construction of major new industrial facilities both in the United States and in the Russian Federation, and these facilities will be for converting this plutonium -- when I mean that, it actually has to change its form into a power so it can be used as fuel, and then fabricating it into fuel and then actually modifying reactors so it can be burned in these reactors. And those are industrial scale large and, I will come to later, expensive facilities, of course. And then it will take at least 15 or more years of operations, that is, to be able to degrade or to irradiate this material, because you have only a certain number of reactors and it can burn only at a certain rate.
What will it cost? Well, the U.S. program, now keep in mind the U.S. program has both immobilization and MOX fuel. What we plan to do in the U.S. program is we will actually use as fuel, 75 percent of our 34 tons that have been declared excess, and the other 25 percent we will immobilize by this other method. The Russian Federation will use all of its 34 tons as fuel in power reactors to degrade it in that fashion.
The cost of our program with immobilization is right around $4 billion, and of course the United States will be paying for its own program. The cost of the Russian program, the preliminary costs approach $2 billion, and that's only for the option of using this as fuel in power reactors. They do not have immobilization, as I mentioned, as part of their program.
Can we expect the Russians, or the Russian Federation, to cover the costs of their program? I'd have to be frank and say no, we cannot expect that to happen. I'd be happy to explain that later. But I think if one looks at the current situation, the priorities and the economic requirements in Russia today, that trying to change the form of this material would not be a high priority for a country in that context.
Russia will, let me make clear, make sizable contributions to this program. Things that we normally pay for when you build something, it's land, even the value of the uranium that goes with the plutonium, and this is quite valuable, the expertise, some of the existing infrastructure, all that Russia will be providing at no cost. But when you come to how else will you get this funded, as I said, you cannot expect Russia to manage that cost, and its program will simply not go forward unless there is a very substantial international financing plan with international assistance. That is going to be required.
One thing that we're often asked is well, isn't there a way of private funding or commercializing this in some way that would take up the difference so that we governments did not have to come up with somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion?
Now, I'd be the first to say that would be nice. I will also say that we are dedicated to exploring every possible source of private revenue or funding, or what we call revenue streams; how can you find some currency that helps to defray some of the cost to governments. But to be honest, we do not expect to find any way that will allow this to go forward unless there is enough assistance up front to basically at least, at least cover the costs through construction of these facilities, and no doubt probably some operations. So at a minimum, you're still talking somewhere between -- up to or slightly beyond $1 billion. So this is not a small project.
Now, if I were going to contribute to this, one of the first questions I'd ask myself is, "Well how do I know that my money will be put to good use?" Now, the agreement which the United States and Russia -- that was announced by the presidents -- just concluded, it was announced by the presidents. I would stress it will be signed shortly, it will be signed shortly by Prime Minister Kasyanov and Vice President Gore. But that agreement ensures that this process, from beginning to end, and everything that comes out of this process in terms of this plutonium will be monitored, it will be subject to verification. And we are working on ways, of course, to ensure that that is international verification.
So when we step back from this, as I answered -- I said at the beginning -- Who benefits from this? -- I would say everybody benefits from this program. And so therefore, when we look at other countries and say who should give, my answer to that would be: Every country that can give should give.
If we step back further and say can this program go forward unless there are some other major contributors in the world, can it go forward -- now let me put that in context. The United States is going to spend $4 billion for its program -- that's current cost estimates -- and we are committed to providing, to providing up to $400 million in assistance to the Russian Federation for its program.
But can this program go forward unless there are other countries in the world that are willing to provide, combined, a comparable or greater amount? And my answer to that is, probably not. It won't go forward. Certainly it won't go forward in the time frame that we envision.
And the time frame is important. When you look at the risks associated with this material, the quicker you get it into safer forms, the better off everyone is. So if we can do it in 15 or 20 years, you're a lot better off than if we can do it in 30 or 35 years. So this is why we think there will need to be major participation and this kind of cooperation.
And that cooperation is going to be necessary beginning, I would say, at the latest next year. Because we are now designing a project, looking at a project. It's like building your house. You're not going to say, "I want to build my house and commit to it," unless you know you actually have the funding to be able to build it and can actually move into it someday. It's the exact same process here. So by next year, we hope to have put together a plan and a financing plan that will enable this project, and we hope at the G-8 summit in 2001 to be able to endorse and move this project forward. And we hope at this July Okinawa summit that, indeed, there will be steps taken which will put us on the course to be able to decide that in 2001.
Now, I'll ask one last -- two last short questions. What will happen if there is insufficient support for this program to go forward? And what will happen is that the likelihood is that very large stocks of this readily usable plutonium will remain in storage indefinitely in the form that is most easily used for weapons. That means those stocks could at any day, if anyone wished, said, "No, I'd like to rebuild the arsenals of the Cold War," they're there. Or, can you imagine these stocks and terrorists or states of concern saying, "What is the best material that I could ever get my hands on?" Now, of course, they'll be protected, but you would have very, very large stocks of this.
And let me be clear. If Russia's program fails, our program will not go forward, and so when we step back from this -- I'd ask the last question, Is it worth it? Now, we all understand that approaching $2 billion, some of which we hope is not in assistance, and there are other ways, but is a sizable amount of money.
However, that is spread out over many, many years. It's not all up- front money; it's money that can go out over 15, 20 years, some of it.
But in answering that question, I'd like you just to consider what are the potential costs if we don't go forward? And I would say the potential cost of having large stocks of this material indefinitely stored are astronomical. The potential downside there is astronomical. So in our view, that's why we say we think plutonium disposition is not only well worth this investment, but it's actually a bargain.
Thank you very much. And I'd be happy to address any questions.
MODERATOR: Before you ask, I would just like to remind you who are more with this facility than I am, please state your name and organization when we hand you the mike. Thank you.
Q Sir, what kind of agreement or decision do you expect to be taken at the Okinawa summit so that, you know, you can make this project move forward onto the Salanbang (ph) summit? Could you explain in more detail, please, about the status of the Okinawa Summit on this project? I am Imshanburow (ph) San (ph) Shimbun.
MR. GUHIN: (Laughs.) Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Like every what I call major project, there are critical milestones. And one of the critical milestones we have just passed over, which is the conclusion of this agreement. The bilateral agreement's done. Another very, very major critical milestone is the upcoming G-8 summit in Okinawa.
Now, if I may step back from that for a minute and say, it's important to note that the G-8 have endorsed this program for many years. They have had experts look at disposition approaches way back in '96. They have made statements of support in principle for this program in the past. And at Cologne last year, they reinforced their support for this program. And they also recognized that international funding will be necessary, and looking both at public funds, as well as private funding.
So that leads to: Well, they have done all this, and so what can we expect out of -- or what do we hope for -- it's what do we hope for out of the Okinawa summit?
Given where we are in terms of the planning for this program, we are not asking, and we would not hope for, somebody to come up with a combination of money. That's not where we are in the program today. But at a minimum, it seems to us that what we would want out of the Okinawa summit is a very clear commitment to see this program succeed. So how do they express that commitment?
One, it seems to me, would be to say that we are going to develop a plan for actually how you will finance this thing by the time of our next summit, and that so instead of talking theoretically any more and saying we want to support, we are going to support, et cetera, says no, we need a plan, including both public and private funding possibilities, but to see how this large project would be financed for upwards of 20 years or more.
I think the second part of that, or related to that would be, if you're going to have international cooperation -- and as I said before, if you don't have large contributors, this is not a United States-Russian program that will go ahead bilaterally, but if you're going to have widespread international cooperation and support for this program, which is indeed essential, you need to find some way of organizing that cooperation, integrating that cooperation, coordinating the project so it actually works.
And I think the second part would be to commit to developing the kind of framework, the kind of multilateral framework that will be necessary if this program is to go forward.
If we can do all that -- let me be very honest. That's a very ambitious program, even that agenda. But in my view, it's not just politically necessary, it's programmatically necessary. And if we can get that in train and achieve that by the time of Genoa, in 2001, at that stage then we would have good reason to expect that this is sort of what -- we would say that this is the time that you have to put your money where your mouth is; that if all these plans come together by 2001 -- and it's going to be difficult, but assuming they do, -- then you're going to have to see are we willing to support the program that is in this plan?
And that is our goal.
Now, why on such a fast track? I know if you look at the world today and the way government's working, you say a lot of these things take years and years and years. Well, we've been on this track for a while already in terms of research. It took us a year of very intense negotiations to negotiate the agreement with Russia. It had 15 trips to Moscow in 15 months. So it is on a fast track.
And the reason it is on a fast track is, it's like anything else. Let me come back to your house you're going to build again: If all of a sudden it starts to drag out over year over year over year, you are going to lose your enthusiasm for building this house. Or as we would say in our business, you're going to lose the political window or the political opportunity to make this program work. We have that window now. There's strong support in the Russian Federation for proceeding in this direction. There was not a couple of years ago. There were questions about whether or not they should use this plutonium in this way, or whether they wanted to save it. So I think we have that opportunity, and that's why I believe it's incumbent on all of us in all countries to see if we can make this work.
MODERATOR: (Off mike.)
Q I remember that you told us after the Russia summit, Moscow summit you are heading for Japan to talk with Japanese officials regarding this plutonium issue. And number one, can you tell me that what kind of discussion you had with Japanese government regarding this issue? And very briefly, if I may, regarding this $2 billion, can you give us some sense how much money Japan should pay about this very big amount of money? Thank you.
MR. GUHIN: First of all, you're absolutely correct. I did leave -- as you know, this was announced in Moscow on June 4th, the conclusion of the bilateral agreement. If I may on an aside say, we got up at an ungodly hour the next morning and 27 hours later arrived at a meeting in Tokyo. And the purpose of that meeting was not so much just with the Japanese government, it was actually a meeting of G-8 experts. So, experts coming from all of the G-8 countries as well as the European Commission, and -- to discuss -- my purpose in there was to discuss this subject with these experts in preparation for the work that we know that we all had to do.
And as I say, what we talked about there were the very questions that we have talked about here: how do we prepare ourselves, what kind of work do we have to do, what kind of approaches should we make to our leadership for the summit? It's like any other process -- where do we agree and how do we advance those areas of agreement?
And I must say, even though it was very long, it was a trip that was very worthwhile. I think we made very good progress in Tokyo. And my only regret was that I had to leave the day after the meeting instead of spend a little more time in Tokyo.
As to your second question, at this stage it's not really a question of how much do we expect any government to give at this stage at all. I would say here, because I think it's important to note, that some countries have already committed and involved some funds into parts of this program. I say this in the sense that the United States has had research development, technical, scientific cooperation going forward with Russia over the last couple of years, since '98, and we have spent tens of millions of dollars already in this program.
There is a trilateral agreement in which the French, the Germans and the Russians are looking at a particular approach to the fuel for this plutonium, and they have spent, I understand, some few tens of millions of dollars in this, or somewhere in there.
Japan is in this case as well. Japan announced some time ago, and in the G-8 context in fact, that it was going to provide and support some funding for one particular option of burning this fuel in the Russian Federation. They announced, at that stage again, some tens of millions of dollars -- 30, 33, 35 million dollars for this program.
So those commitments are underway. Actually, Canada has done some fuel development as well. And earlier, in some years past, even the U.K. had been involved in some of this. This is all sort of research, development, testing, and this is all work that needs to be done. And we appreciate every contribution that has been made into this cooperation.
What we hope now to do is in the next year, is to prepare the plan to determine how much of this cost can be defrayed by other means, and how much is going to come home to the governments to address. It's not going to go forward unless we, we provide that support.
And it's way too early to say how that would be broken down.
I've told you that the United States is committed. We've already appropriated $200 million. Our Congress appropriated $200 million for this in 1998. We haven't been able to spend a penny of it, one, because we didn't have our agreement -- and as I've said, now we have completed our agreement, we will be able to start spending that money for design work, looking toward these facilities.
I would add one thing to that. I'd come back to a point -- is that we see this as in every country's interest. We would hope, in the end, that certainly the G-8 countries would see this as very much in their interest on this plan, and they would be willing to support it substantially. And that goes, of course, not just for Japan, but absolutely when we look at Europe as well, that we would say this is something that is going to benefit us all. I've often said it certainly benefits the rest of the world as much as it benefits us. And so it's an area where we look forward to this kind of very integrated and very substantial cooperation.
Q My name is Ivan Lebedev. I'm with the Russian News Agency, Tass. And my question is, do you expect that any particular financial commitments will be made by G-7 countries at the 2001 summit in Genoa, according to the plan that you are going to work out in the upcoming year between the two summits?
MR. GUHIN: At this stage, of course, I have to give a personal view, not a government view, because we haven't looked down there. But from a personal view, I would say that assuming we succeed in putting together a plan, which I am determined that we succeed at -- but if we can put together and do put together a financial plan, international financing plan, that shows, one, exactly what this project is; two, exactly what aspects the international community wishes to participate in; and three, how much all of this is going to cost -- in other words, cannot be supported by other means -- then absolutely. Our goal would be -- that's what I mean by -- that is sort of the time when people have to say, "Yes, I really do support it," and they support it by saying, "Yes, I am willing to give or to commit up to certain amounts of money" or each government -- we have privately talked with many governments, by the way, and many -- and I think, in principle -- in principle, all of these governments are willing to support in time because they support the program.
But at some stage -- and we hope we -- our goal is -- that's the 2001 summit -- that that would be the stage at which the international community, the G-8 in particular, decides, "Yes, we are going forward, and here is how we're going forward." And to say, "Here is how we're going forward," indeed you have to understand where is that money coming from. And so that has to be by that time part of it.
But let me clarify one thing, and it's something I don't want you to misunderstand. These costs are spread out over years. I forget the exact numbers; I once looked at them recently. But even between now and the time you actually finish construction of those facilities, those facilities, at the earliest, would be completed at the end of December, 2007. That's at the earliest. That's our goal. And even over that time, the amount of money that is needed each year, as I recall, fluctuates somewhere between $48 (million) and $80 million each year. So nobody -- they're not asking the U.S., either -- nobody's asking anybody to say, Okay, I want you to sign up for this program and you give me a check for $200 million, or a check for $100 million.
Now, obviously, what one is looking at is the political commitment and resolve that over time we are committed to providing up to certain amounts of money, and that's what's going to be necessary, is that kind of political commitment and determination and pledge that this is, indeed, the way we're going to make it go forward. But it is not $2 billion in 2001. That's not what it is and, in fact, once you get through -- To construct these facilities right now are estimated to be somewhere around $800 million, to get through all the preparatory stages and to actually get the facilities operating, which means that somewhere between, basically, you know, $1 billion and $1.2 billion as we look at it, is for operations spread out over many years. And operations is one of the key areas that one can look at to see if there are ways of defraying some of those costs, operational costs. Let me give you an example.
Switzerland, for example, has said that it would at least explore the option of using this Russian fuel in a couple of its reactors. If that happened to be the case, then that's hard currency one's talking about, and so you see that this actually produces revenue. Over time, in the Russian Federation itself, one can envision these could be revenue processes working but we'd have to -- this will have to be part of the financial plan, to see how different aspects of these costs can be met. But as I said in the beginning, nobody -- we cannot expect that this can get off the ground, or that these facilities can be constructed, unless there is a very substantial public assistance and support program up front.
And you may ask yourself, Why? Why is that? It's very simple. If you put this -- what we call mixed oxide uranium-plutonium fuel on the market today and if you said, "I'm going to construct it, and I'm going to make it and I'm going to sell it to a utility," you will not be able to sell it to a utility at a competitive price. You will not. It will be much more expensive than uranium. And there's no getting around that, in terms of the economics. Unless uranium changes, that will stay the same.
However, if the facilities are built -- and keep in mind this is not a moneymaking operation, this is a nonproliferation and an arms control measure. This is what this is all about. This isn't about how do we go out here and sell things all around the world. We don't want that either. We don't want to spread plutonium all around the world in the sense to make money. This is about taking weapons plutonium and degrading it into forms that cannot be used for weapons. That is the fundamental story. So when governments look at this question, in our mind it's -- you saw I reversed the question. It's not a question can we afford to contribute to this project; it's really a question can we afford not to make this project work, because, as I said before, from an arms control point of view, from a nonproliferation point of view, it has potentially astronomical downsides. And if it doesn't work, let's be clear, if it doesn't work, this will set back the clock on nuclear disarmament.
Q Is it possible to make right now any even preliminary for costs, what part, what percentage from this amount of the Russian plutonium from the 34 tons will be used as MOX fuel in Russian Federation in Russian reactors, and what part will be used in Western European countries, I mean abroad and in other states?
MR. GUHIN: That's a very good question. That's come up recently. I've seen it in some articles. The agreement that we have, of course, enables both options. The agreement is an enabling agreement. It doesn't say a certain amount here, a certain amount there, et cetera; it just says it can be used in certain Russian reactors or, if both parties agree, it could be used outside of Russia, but it requires, of course, the agreement of both parties as to where that fuel would be used, in a legal sense.
The assumptions and the programs and the analysis that have gone forward to date have always been premised on the idea that roughly around two metric tons per year of this plutonium would be -- we call that a disposition rate, how fast can you get this stuff turned into safer -- or plutonium. And we had thought that up to two metric tons per year could be disposed of in existing Russian reactors, and that includes the light-water reactors and it includes the BN-600 fast reactor.
Let me say first of all, two or three years ago everyone had concluded two metric tons per year is not a good enough rate.
It's not fast enough. Thirty-four tons, 2 metric tons per year; it's automatic. It's going to be a minimum of 17 years -- after 2007 -- before all of this -- and by that time, we could have had tons more declared excess, if we've had progress in arms control.
So the agreement establishes as a goal, and it's a goal I think shared by many countries, is that we ought to at least try to double that rate. So the U.S. program -- if the U.S. program -- all of these programs go like this in terms of disposing -- but the U.S. program is geared so that it can dispose -- basically reach a rate of 4 metric tons per year. It will build up to that, it will reach that, it will stay there. And then, as time goes on, it won't have enough to maintain that. So that is the goal that we're looking for at least, of trying to get to double the 2-ton-per-year rate.
Does Russia have the capacity when one looks at it today? No, that capacity does not exist in Russia to irradiate that quantity of material. Plus, it requires modification of any reactor to be able to irradiate that material.
So one of the alternatives and one of the options is to look at, "Is it possible that this material, some of this material, can be irradiated in other countries?" Now, when I say "can be irradiated," keep in mind what this really means is a foreign utility, a non- Russian utility, purchasing -- purchasing Russian fuel to use in its reactor -- I would say that's obviously a source of revenue, as well.
So one of the options that needs to be explored very much is, "Is there the opportunity or are other countries willing, to irradiate somewhere, I would say, between 2 (tonnes) or 2.5 metric tons per year of this plutonium?" And we do not have the answer to that. Of course, that's another item that we need to explore between now and Genoa. As I said, one country has informally -- and this was again in an informal meeting -- said: No, they are willing to explore that idea. Canada has of course said it's willing to explore the idea.
But a lot of this will come down to economics because foreign utilities, non- and/or Russian -- say foreign -- but non-Russian utilities, of course, will not say, "I'll buy this Russian fuel" -- if the Russian fuel is more expensive than what they pay for non-Russian fuel or for uranium fuel in some cases. So those are the things that we need to work out and work on, but it's an option. And we would hope that all countries will look at that option seriously.
And I would stress that, however, this is -- why I said this could only go to countries that were agreed -- I think we will all understand that any plutonium, you don't just send to any country -- so that it would -- obviously, when we say, "Where might it be burned?" we are looking at what we would say would be the developed and then the Western countries or at least countries with very outstanding nonproliferation credentials so that there would be no question about this material and how it would be protected in those countries.
Q A follow-up. Does it mean that there will be not only inter-governmental dialogue on that issue, but also talks with the private business?
MR. GUHIN: It certainly does. I mean, some private businesses, obviously -- and we are aware of this -- are talking about it among themselves anyway, and how this might be structured. And we in government -- in fact, one of the very next steps that we are working on together, my staff and others, is how do you integrate this thinking, and how do you come together in a way so that you can understand what's possible in the private world and then compare that with what we're trying to do in this project. It's very challenging. But yes, there definitely will have to be that dialogue.
Q (Name inaudible) -- a correspondent for the (Expert ?) Russian weekly. I'm wondering about the monitoring measures, especially monitoring of spending money. Could you elaborate a little bit on the issue?
MR. GUHIN: On the monitoring issues?
MR. GUHIN: But what aspect concerned you most, did you say?
Q Monitoring of spending money.
MR. GUHIN: (Laughs.) That is -- this is -- I'm sorry, the reason I -- that's an excellent question, and we touched upon that earlier. You know, when you deal with plutonium and you say "monitoring," the first reaction is how do you monitor that plutonium, because that's what everybody worries about in the world!
But you're absolutely right -- I mentioned it in my opening remarks -- is how do you monitor the money, not the plutonium. It's a critical question for all of us. It's certainly a critical question for our Congress, let me tell you that. They've appropriated $200 million. We hope in time they will appropriate more as this program goes forwards and succeeds. We'd like to get another $200 million from them, in time. And a critical requirement, absolutely critical requirement, is that we set up the mechanisms and the controls that enable us to say that that money, (1) is being used for what it should be used for and for nothing else; and (2) that it is actually being used effectively -- we're not doing a wasteful project, we're actually getting what we put our money up for.
And this is part of the way the U.S. tries to monitor its assistance with any country -- it could be Russia or anyone else. It will certainly be a requirement of other countries. It will be a requirement in any -- if we put together a multilateral framework to coordinate this cooperation, it will certainly be a requirement there. We have in our bilateral agreement, of course, we have several provisions that talk about how this can be used, how it cannot be used, how these facilities can be used, where this material could go. All of that is -- all these rules are laid out.
And of course, when you come down to facilities and assistance, we also have a standard thing, which is called auditing and examination. I mean, people who provide money have a right to ensure that the money is being used carefully and rightly, and that will of course occur in this case, as it is does in any -- any -- kind of this project, in any part of the world. And that's a real concern.
We had -- one of our issues in the negotiation, too, which we have overcome, was one of the concerns of all of the countries -- is if we provide assistance to another country, then the assistance should not be taxed. In other words, the assistance should actually go into paying what we're trying to do there. And in fact, we have -- in our work and our agreement, we resolved all of those issues, I think, to the satisfaction of ourselves and certainly will be satisfactory to our Congress, where we want to get more money.
It's a critical issue, and it is in every single assistance project, and certainly one of this magnitude. And we have the mechanisms established and the rules established, and we will just over time have to ensure that those are utilized. And as I said, if other countries participate, which we hope they will, then they will have the same demands.
Q On June 22, President Clinton sent an executive order to Congress about the risk of nuclear proliferation in Russia. Now could you give us your comments on the -- on this executive order?
MR. GUHIN: (Chuckles.) On June 22 of this year?
MR. GUHIN: I'm sorry. I honestly -- I'm not backing off of that question for the -- and I'd be happy to look into it, and we could get back to you in -- with some response to that question. To be very candid with you, I have been this deep in negotiations right through the 4th, and now we are getting this thing ready for signature. So it's not my field -- it's my field, but it's not my specialty, and I'd rather somebody that had dealt with directly with that answer that question.
MODERATOR: If there are no more questions, I'd like to thank Dr. Guhin.
MR. GUHIN: Thank you.
MODERATOR: He made what seemed like a very technical topic very understandable. And I thank you for your questions.
MR. GUHIN: And I'd like to thank all of you very much.
Q Thank you very much.
MR. GUHIN: Thank you.
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