WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly 13,000 nuclear weapons-worth of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) has been converted to fuel for use in American nuclear power plants, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at the Department of Energy. The announcement comes the week of the 15th anniversary of the signing of the agreement that began this work.
Through NNSA's efforts, 322 metric tons (710,000 lbs.) of HEU from Soviet-era dismantled nuclear weapons has been eliminated from Russia's stockpile and converted to provide heat and light to American homes through nuclear power. The HEU is converted into low enriched uranium (LEU) in Russia and sold to the United States, where it is made into nuclear fuel. NNSA actively monitors the process to ensure that Russian weapons-derived HEU is eliminated under an historic government-to-government nonproliferation agreement.
"NNSA has been working with Russia for fifteen years to eliminate highly-enriched uranium from its weapons stockpile and prevent it from being diverted to unauthorized use," said William Tobey, NNSA's head of nuclear nonproliferation. "At the same time, about one in ten light bulbs in America is powered by material that was once in a Soviet nuclear weapon."
In 1993, the United States and the Russia Federation committed to irreversibly eliminate 500 metric tons of excess HEU from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons by converting it into fuel for U.S. commercial power reactors under the HEU Purchase Agreement. This executive agreement helps Russia eliminate excess weapons-usable material that could be targeted by terrorists for potential theft or diversion. The resulting fuel supplies almost half of all U.S. nuclear energy and provides ten percent of America's total electric power each year.
NNSA's HEU Transparency Program monitors the processing and conversion of material at facilities in both countries and conducts 24 special monitoring visits each year to four Russian facilities. Russian experts also conduct visits to the United States to ensure that the LEU is used for peaceful purposes. Before the agreement concludes in 2013, NNSA experts will monitor the elimination of another 30 metric tons, or approximately 1,200 nuclear weapons-worth, of Russian HEU converted to LEU each year for a total of 500 metric tons by 2013.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371