NPR – Russian Warheads Fuel U.S. Power Plants

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on December 26, 2013

NPR – GEOFF BRUMFIEL: ”Here’s a remarkable fact: For the past two decades, 10 percent of all the electricity consumed in the United States has come from Russian nuclear warheads. It was all part of a deal struck at the end of the Cold War. That deal wraps up today, when the final shipment of fuel arrives at a U.S. facility. The origins of the plan lie in the early 1990s. At the time, Philip Sewell was working for the U.S. Department of Energy. The Soviet Union had just disintegrated, and Sewell’s job was to find ways to collaborate with the former adversaries. In practice, this involved driving out into the Russian countryside, to military facilities that weren’t even on the map…in 1993 the deal was struck: The Russians would turn about 500 tons of bomb-grade uranium into nuclear fuel. The U.S. would buy it and sell it to commercial power plants here…The Russians made around $17 billion. Sewell’s government office was spun off into a private company — the United States Enrichment Corporation — and made money from the deal too. And the U.S. power plants got the uranium at a good price.

But all good things must come to an end, says Matthew Bunn at Harvard University. ”Russia is a totally different place today than it was twenty years ago,” Bunn says. “As the Russian government is fond of saying, they’re ‘no longer on their knees.’ “ Still Bunn says this deal will go down in history as one of the greatest diplomatic achievements ever.”

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