September 29, 1997

DOE Press Office, 202/586-5806

Peña Doubles Amount of U.S. Plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium Available for International Inspection

Signs Two Conventions to Improve Nuclear Safety

In a speech before the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 41st Annual Conference in Vienna, Austria, U.S. Secretary of Energy Federico Peña today announced that the United States is doubling the amount of U.S. plutonium and highly enriched uranium available for international inspection. In addition, he announced new initiatives to accelerate progress on international nonproliferation agreements. He also urged increased cooperation to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism and called on all nations to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. As the leader of the U.S. delegation to the conference, Secretary Peña signed a convention on spent fuel and nuclear waste management and a convention on nuclear liability that will lead to improved safety at nuclear reactors throughout the world.

"Our mission is to make sure that all nuclear material is safe and secure. That means ensuring that weapons-usable material doesn't fall into the wrong hands and improving the safety of reactors around the world," Peña said. "The work we've done today helps us in both these areas."

Peña announced that the United States will make an additional 52 tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium available for IAEA inspection, beyond the 38 tons already available. He called on other nuclear weapons states to follow his lead. All of this material had been previously removed from military use. The announcement means that the United States is more than doubling the amount of defense-related nuclear material available for international inspection.

To accelerate progress on international nonproliferation agreements, Peña said the United States will soon conduct an experimental application of all measures included in the IAEA's newly strengthened safeguards system (the so-called 93+2 program). The experiment will take place at the Argonne National Laboratory site in Idaho and will provide a model for U.S. compliance with the safeguards.

Secretary Peña also announced that the IAEA will inspect the dilution of excess U.S. highly enriched uranium. "This will be the first time the agency has verified the transformation of fissile material from a nuclear weapons state's military sector to civilian uses," Peña said. "I hope that other nations will follow suit."

Secretary Peña signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, making the United States the first signatory. The convention provides important liability protection to American companies interested in nuclear reactor construction, safety upgrades and repairs in other countries. Peña also signed the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, which requires signatories to manage spent fuel and radioactive waste according to agreed upon international standards. It encourages compliance with these standards through peer reviews and other incentives. Neither of these conventions require changes to U.S. law.

Secretary Peña held bilateral talks with his counterparts from Russia, South Korea, and Japan. In each of these meetings, Peña urged prompt ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, expanded safeguards for nuclear material and increased efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. Secretary Peña and Russian Minister Mikhailov signed a Joint Statement of the Activities of International Nuclear Safety Centers that will support enhanced communication and cooperation between scientists and initiation of seven joint activities to improve the safety of Russian-designed nuclear reactors.

- DOE -