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Restoring U.S.-Russia Nuclear Cooperation: A Practical Guide for Policymakers

U.S.-Russia relations have been increasingly strained in recent years over the Ukrainian crisis, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election. An unfortunate casualty of these tensions has been U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation. Despite shared critical interests that range from nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation to research and development in civil nuclear energy, bilateral cooperation has all but ceased.

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise – welcomed by President Vladimir Putin – to improve bilateral ties. But a closer relationship between the presidents will not be sufficient to overcome disagreements. What is required is a road map for incremental progress, based on mutual national interests. For the critical area of nuclear cooperation, such a road map has just been published.

Developed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in partnership with Russia’s Center for Energy and Security Studies, and with contributions from the Nuclear Energy Institute, “Pathways to Cooperation” offers a “menu of potential U.S.-Russian cooperative projects in the nuclear sphere.” The report identifies common principles and lists more than 50 projects in the following five areas of bilateral cooperation:

  1. On nuclear science, expanding research on the effects of radiation, developing advanced radiation detection equipment, and using the two countries’ state-of-the-art research facilities to develop new materials for nuclear applications.
  2. On nuclear energy, jointly developing innovative reactor designs, collaborating across the fuel cycle, and promoting safety and security in nuclear newcomer countries, including through education and training programs.
  3. On nuclear safety, collaborating to standardize reactor designs, to harmonize reactor licensing approaches, to improve regulator-to-regulator cooperation, to strengthen international safety incident response and management, and to ensure the safety of next-generation nuclear technologies.
  4. On nuclear security, developing joint projects to secure potentially dangerous radioactive sources and nuclear materials in Central Asia, to prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials, to improve nuclear security education and training resources, and to expand nuclear security technical cooperation with other countries.
  5. On nuclear environmental remediation, advancing cooperative approaches – such as decommissioning nuclear facilities, including those in third countries – and innovative research and development (R&D) on technologies and processes to remediate contaminated soil and groundwater.
As former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman and CEO of NTI, writes in his forward to the report, revitalized U.S.-Russia nuclear cooperation provides benefits to the United States, Russia and the world, while helping our leaders “to rebuild the trust critical to putting bilateral relations back on track.”

The above is a guest post from Ted Jones, director of supplier programs at NEI. 

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