In about a week Russia will begin construction of a power plant in Seversk (Tomsk-7) that will replace the two plutonium production reactors that are still operating there - ADE-4 and ADE-5. A similar project will be carried out in Zhelesnogorsk (Krasnoyarsk-26) to replace the ADE-2 reactor that works there. The reactors in Seversk are expected to be shut down by the end of 2008, the one in Zhelesnogorsk - in 2011.

What we see is the beginning of the end of a long story - the effort to close down the three ADE reactors that keep producing about 5 kg of plutonium every day. This is, by the way, what North Korea would need about a year to produce. But unlike North Korea, Russia doesn't really need the stuff (it has about 150 tonnes of it already), so since October 1994 the plutonium has been stored in plutonium dioxide form.

There have been attempts in the past to end the plutonium production sooner by converting reactors to a different fuel, but it proved to be technically difficult and these attempts were abandoned. In 2003 the choice was made to build "replacement capacity" to which Minatom did not object since it secured control over the project. And yes, the project is done with U.S. (and Canada) assistance - its total cost is about $466 million.