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|Wednesday, August 22, 2001, updated at 08:07(GMT+8)|
US Balks on Plan to Get Plutonium out of WarheadsThe Bush administration is likely to abandon a program conceived by Clinton administration to rid the world of 100 tons of American and Russian weapons-grade plutonium, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Under the plan, 50 tons of American plutonium and 50 tons of Russian plutonium would be taken out of nuclear weapons and either converted onto fuel for nuclear reactors or rendered useless for weapons by mixing it with highly radioactive nuclear waste.
Bush administration officials deny the program is dead, but acknowledge that it has difficulties, primarily financial ones.
"The issue is under review," said an administration official who would speak only if not identified. "We've made no secret of that. But no decisions have been made. It's no secret that there are a lot of equities to balance here."
One major equity, he said, is money. Early this year the Energy Department predicted a cost of 6.6 billion dollars, triple the initial estimates, to convert the American stocks to fuel for civilian nuclear reactors. It put Russia's cost at 1.76 billion dollars, which is money Russia does not have.
Despite the program's expected benefits, the Bush administration's proposed Energy Department budget this spring did not include the money needed to mix some of the plutonium with nuclear waste.
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