WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) successfully converted the VVR-SM research reactor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Uzbekistan from highly enriched uranium fuel to low enriched uranium fuel.
Unlike the highly enriched uranium fuel, the low enriched fuel cannot be used readily in a nuclear weapon and is less desirable to terrorists or criminals. The operation was conducted in cooperation with the government of Uzbekistan.
"This successful reactor conversion is another example of the international community working cooperatively to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism," said William Tobey, NNSA's chief of nuclear nonproliferation. "Reducing the use of highly enriched uranium for civilian purposes and continuing to work closely with our international partners remain a strong focus of our commitment to advance our nonproliferation and international security goals."
NNSA provided the funding for the conversion through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and collaborated closely with the staff at the WWR-SM reactor to accomplish the joint program. GTRI works around the world to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites. Currently, NNSA is working to convert 73 additional reactors by 2018. This is part of the Bush administration's efforts to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium in civil applications.
This conversion was a part of the 2005 joint statement between Presidents Bush and Putin on nuclear security cooperation, in which the United States and Russia pledged to work jointly to develop low-enriched uranium fuel for use in any U.S. - and Russian-designed research reactors in third countries now using high-enriched uranium fuel, and to return to the supplier country fresh and spent HEU from U.S. - and Russian-designed research reactors in third countries. GTRI has already completed several shipments to return Russian-origin fresh and spent HEU fuel from Uzbekistan.
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.
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