Russia suspends cooperation agreement with the United States and ends reactor conversion work

In two decisions published today, the Russian government suspended the U.S.-Russian agreement on cooperation in nuclear- and energy-related research and terminated the Implementing Agreement between Rosatom and the Department of Energy on conversion of research reactors.

The cooperation agreement was signed in September 2013 and was intended to stimulate new cooperation projects. It included an annex that regulated questions of intellectual property and a list of organizations and facilities that may be used to conduct cooperative activities. The letter that accompanied the government decree explains the decision to suspend the agreement rather than terminate it:

Under this approach, the international legal framework of cooperation with the United States will be preserved. Russia will preserve the possibility of resuming cooperation under the Agreement when that is justified by the general context of relations with the United States.

The importance of this decision is difficult to estimate, since the role of the suspended agreement was not entirely clear. The legal framework for most cooperation projects was provided by other agreements - the Cooperative Threat Reduction umbrella agreement until 2013 and after 2013 - by a bilateral U.S-Russian protocol to the 2003 Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation (MNEPR) after 2013.

The terminated Implementing Agreement was governed by the terms of the MNERP protocol since 2013. The agreement, signed on 7 December 2010, covered reactor conversion feasibility studies as well as work on development and testing of new fuels. It included cost-sharing provisions, with the United States covering the cost of fuel development and qualification and Russia supporting fuel fabrication. In 2014, the work under the agreement resulted in Russia's completing conversion of the Argus reactor at the Kurchatov Institute.

In justifying the termination of the reactor conversion agreement, the Russian government said that the work under the agreement has been largely completed and that no new projects under the agreement are being planned. It also referred to the U.S. decision to suspend cooperation that was made in April 2014.

Formally, the MNERP agreement and the bilateral protocol, which remain in force, could continue to support cooperation projects. However, Russia informed the United States at the last meeting of the joint working group, which took place in December 2014, that it intends to end all cooperation and gradually phase out joint projects in all areas in 2015. The decision to terminate the reactor conversion agreement simply codified the end of the program that happened in 2014.