Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Alexey Likhachev (not pictured), Director General of State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom (ROSATOM), to discuss projects in Russia and abroad, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 17 June 2020. EFE-EPA FILE/ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL MANDATORY CREDIT

US says Russia reportedly supplying enriched plutonium to China

Washington, Mar 8 (EFE).- Russia is reportedly supplying highly enriched plutonium to China for its fast breeder reactors, which are designed to generate more fuel than they consume, a US official said Wednesday.

Delegates stand underneath a logo of Rosatom, Russian Federal Agency on Atomic Energy, during the 66th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference at the IAEA headquarters of the UN seat in Vienna, Austria, 26 September 2022. EFE-EPA FILE/CHRISTIAN BRUNA

“It’s very troubling to see Russia and China cooperating on this,” John F. Plumb, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, said during a hearing at the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, the Department of Defense reported in a statement.

The US official said that “various open-source outlets” had reported how Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, was providing highly enriched uranium for Chinese fast breeder reactors.

“They may have talking points around it, but there’s no getting around the fact that breeder reactors are plutonium, and plutonium is for weapons,” the official added, according to the statement.

“So I think the (Defense) Department is concerned. And of course, it matches our concerns about China’s increased expansion of its nuclear forces as well, because you need more plutonium for more weapons,” Plumb said.

The official said that nuclear weapons, space warfare and long-range strikes were at the center of Russia and China’s strategies to counter the US and its allies.

“China is engaged in a significant and fast-paced expansion and diversification of its nuclear forces. Also, Russia and China view space as a warfighting domain,” he said.

China also has a growing inventory of sophisticated long-range strike systems that put US forces at risk at ever greater distances, the official added.

Plumb also described the US nuclear deterrent as the bedrock of national security in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible nuclear saber rattling,” according to Pentagon’s statement.

The testimony before Congress comes at a time of strained US-China ties due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Beijing’s ambiguous stance on the conflict, which it has refrained from condemning. EFE