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Sierra Club Conservation Policies

Nuclear Exports and Plutonium Separation

The Sierra Club recognizes the grave danger associated with the availability of plutonium from irradiated nuclear reactor fuels. Plutonium recovered from such fuel elements may be recycled in conventional or breeder reactors to produce energy. However, it may also be diverted by national governments or stolen by terrorists, even in relatively small amounts, to produce nuclear explosives. No system of safeguards has been devised that is sufficiently reliable to prevent such occurrences. As civilian nuclear technology is traded throughout the world, the weapons proliferation risk will be greatly increased.

It is essential that nuclear fuel reprocessing, which separates plutonium and makes it accessible, be banned throughout the world. To this end, the Sierra Club urges that United States nuclear export policies be reformed to prevent other nations from using U.S.-supplied materials or technology for producing separated plutonium, and to induce other nations to agree to international controls on nuclear activities, including particularly a moratorium on spent fuel reprocessing.

1. The Sierra Club supports initiatives by the United States to limit exports of nuclear fuels, equipment, and technologies only to countries that have ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty and agree, with respect to all nuclear activities within their jurisdictions and all their own nuclear export activities, to adhere to the following principles:

  1. Reprocessing of irradiated fuel elements will be prohibited;
  2. Stringent surveillance, reporting, materials accounting and physical security measures on nuclear materials and facilities will be implemented;
  3. Nuclear explosives will not be developed;
  4. Spent fuel will be stored only under strict international control;
  5. Weapons-grade materials will not be exported and, in the case of non-weapons nations, will not be produced or stockpiled;
  6. Sanctions will be imposed against other nations that fail to adhere to these principles;
  7. Multinational procedures will be established to be followed to recover nuclear materials in the event of diversion, theft, or sabotage;

2. In addition to an embargo of U.S. nuclear exports against countries that do not adhere to these principles, the United States should offer inducements to nations to enter into such accords, including, in all cases, assistance in developing non-nuclear energy technology alternatives. U.S. foreign aid, military assistance, and export loans policies should conform and complement these initiatives. The United States should aggressively seek the cooperation of other nations, particularly nuclear suppliers, in carrying out these initiatives.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 7-8, 1977


Plutonium Separation

The Sierra Club opposes introduction or expanded use of any technology or arrangements, such as plutonium separation (fuel reprocessing) that would increase the net risks of diversion or release of fissionable materials from any portion of the nuclear fuel cycle or contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Sierra Club is opposed to the separation and storage of plutonium for any purpose.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, May 7-8, 1977


In view of the environmental hazards, the security risks, and the increased danger of nuclear war caused by the spread of nuclear weapons, the Sierra Club calls on the president, the State Department, and the Congress of the United States to discourage the development of nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities abroad.

The Club urges U.S. prohibition of the export of all nuclear facilities, materials, and technology, but where federal decisionmakers deem such a prohibition to be contrary to the national interest, the Club calls upon them to limit the export of uranium fuel, equipment, and technology used for the generation of nuclear power to the signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty who accept IAEA inspection and audits, and to permit the export of only low-enriched uranium for use in research reactors.

Finally, the Sierra Club calls upon the same decisionmakers to adhere to the provision of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act requiring that permission for the reprocessing of nuclear fuels supplied by the United States or irradiated in U.S.-origin reactors be given only on a case-by-case basis as fuel elements are removed from reactors.

Adopted by the Board of Directors, September 15, 1984


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