Source: The State | Vera Bergengruen | October 3, 2016
President Vladimir Putin suspended a 16-year-old deal with the United States to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium on Monday, further calling into question the future of the beleaguered mixed oxide facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
The Kremlin cited the “inability of the U.S. to deliver on (its) obligation” to uphold its end of the nonproliferation deal in which both countries agreed in 2000 to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium.
In April, the Obama administration effectively scrapped the unfinished nuclear facility in Aiken, South Carolina, which is billions over budget and years behind schedule. The Department of Energy instead backed an alternative, cheaper method called downblending, but it had not secured Russia’s permission to change the terms of the deal.
“This is not what we agreed on,” Putin responded in April, according to a translation provided by the Kremlin. “Russia fulfilled its obligations in this regard and built these facilities, but our American partners did not.”
Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, South Carolina’s Republican senators, had warned in the spring that Russia would see the Obama administration’s move to pull the plug on the plant as a breach of the treaty.
On Monday, Graham slammed Obama. “Russia abandoning one of the most important underpinnings of our nonproliferation regime is just another example of how President Obama will be leaving office with the world a much more dangerous place than it was when he was elected,” he said.
The Kremlin’s statement Monday indicated that Russia’s withdrawal is a “direct result of this administration’s mishandling of the MOX project,” Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., told McClatchy.
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