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Russia: Moscow, U.S. Form Radioactive Materials Office

Washington, 10 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The United States and Russia have agreed to set up a joint task force to prevent radioactive materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Russian Atomic Energy Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev announced the agreement late yesterday after three days of talks in Washington.

The new body will seek to identify low-grade non-military radioactive materials which could be used by terrorists to produce bombs that would not have the destructive power of a nuclear weapon, but would spread toxic radiation when exploded. Such radioactive substances can be found in many forms, including medical isotopes. Abraham said the effort would be financed by the U.S. Energy Department.

Abraham also announced that the U.S. would resume buying plutonium 238 from Russia to use as a power source in U.S. spacecraft. The U.S. signed an agreement to buy the nonweapons-grade plutonium in 1992, but in recent years none has been bought.