Rosatom and the Department of Energy announced today that they agreed that Russia will burn at least part of the 34 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium in fast reactors. Rosatom has always favored the fast-reactor idea and now it got quite close to making it work. The current agreement commits Russian and U.S. experts to work on a plan that would allow to begin "early utilization" of Russian plutonium in the BN-600 reactor in 2010-2012. By December 25, 2006 the experts will present a long-term plan of plutonium disposition and cost estimates.

It's not that the idea is entirely new - the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement allows Russia to use either its light-water reactors or BN-600 or BOR-60 fast reactors to burn plutonium. But the United States has been reluctant to allow the fast reactor route and Russia did not want to do it alone, for the program requires construction of a MOX fuel fabrication facility, which Russia expects the United States to finance. But without the Russian facility the United States cannot built a MOX fabrication plant in Savannah River (if I remember correctly, the funds to this facility have been denied since my post). So, it looks like if DoE wants to go ahead with the plant in Savannah River, it has no choice but to agree to the Russian fast-reactor plan.