NNSA Announces Elimination of 450 Metric Tons of Russian Weapons Highly Enriched Uranium

Press Release
Jul 9, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 450 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program. The 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement is now 90 percent complete and by the end of 2013 a total of 500 MT of Russian nuclear weapons HEU will be eliminated by being converted into low enriched uranium (LEU), which is intended for peaceful uses.

The agreement requires Russia to convert weapons-origin HEU into LEU. The resulting LEU is delivered to the U.S., fabricated into nuclear fuel, and used in nuclear power plants to generate roughly 10 percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S. each year. Nearly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced in the U.S. comes from nuclear fuel derived from Russian nuclear weapons.

“Down-blending weapons origin HEU into LEU that is used for commercial energy is a core NNSA nonproliferation mission,” said Anne Harrington, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “Supervising the elimination of Russian origin HEU directly supports the president’s mission to eliminate vulnerable nuclear material around the globe in order to improve international nuclear security.”

NNSA's HEU Transparency Program monitors the Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion process to ensure that all LEU delivered to the U.S. under the agreement is derived from Russian weapons HEU. The HEU Transparency Program implements extensive access and monitoring rights during 24 annual monitoring visits to four Russian HEU processing facilities. At these facilities, U.S. experts measure and observe HEU processing firsthand, analyze Russian HEU-to-LEU processing forms, and use U.S. monitoring equipment. This information allows the U.S. to confirm that Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion activities fulfill the agreement’s nonproliferation goals.

Since 1995, the NNSA program has conducted 335 monitoring visits to Russian HEU processing facilities and since 2000, U.S. experts have monitored the elimination of 30 metric tons of Russian HEU each year – the yearly equivalent of about 1,200 nuclear weapons. By the end of 2013, NNSA will have monitored the elimination of HEU roughly equivalent to 20,000 nuclear weapons.

The Russian Federation also conducts reciprocal monitoring activities at U.S. facilities to confirm the exclusively peaceful use of all LEU delivered under the agreement. The agreement will be fully completed in the 2014-2015 timeframe when all LEU is manufactured into nuclear fuel and all final accounting and transparency documents are provided to the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom).

The U.S. Enrichment Corporation and Techsnabexport, the executive agents for the agreement, manage the commercial aspects and logistics of the uranium shipments and transfers.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous 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 U.S. and abroad.