The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that 40 kilograms (about 90 pounds) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) have been safely returned to Russia from Poland.
DOE Announces Successful Removal of Nuclear Material from PolandLargest Amount of HEU Removed and Secured Under NNSA's Threat Reduction Program
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today that 40 kilograms (about 90 pounds) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) have been safely returned to Russia from Poland. The secret operation was a joint NNSA mission with Poland, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). NNSA fully funded the activity and provided the technical support necessary.
"Every time we are successful in securing weapon grade nuclear material and vulnerable stockpiles of high-risk, radiological materials, we increase our security at home and around the world," said Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman. "This is another example of the international community working collectively to reduce the threat of terrorism."
The two-day operation was the largest removal of Soviet-origin "fresh" (unirradiated) HEU since the inception of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative two years ago. The shipment was part of the prioritized, accelerated schedule in support of the Bush-Putin Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation.
At the Maria research reactor at the Institute of Atomic Energy in Otwock-Swierk, Poland, the HEU was loaded into five specialized transportation containers while NNSA technical experts and IAEA safeguards inspectors observed. The canisters were airlifted under guard from an airport near Warsaw to a secure facility in Dimitrovgrad, Russia. The material will be down blended into low enriched uranium (LEU), which is less attractive for proliferation purposes.
Previously, NNSA upgraded the Maria reactor's physical protection systems where the HEU was being stored. In 2009, the United States will assist Poland with the conversion of the reactor from the use of HEU fuel to the use of the less proliferation-attractive LEU fuel.
In concert with efforts to eliminate and remove nuclear material in Poland, NNSA is also working to provide security upgrades for locations with high-activity radioactive material, which could be used for "dirty bombs." In Poland, NNSA has completed work at 37 sites with radioactive material and upgrades are underway at an additional six locations. Earlier this month, NNSA announced that more than 5,500 curies of radiological cobalt-60 and cesium-137, enough material for at least five "dirty bombs," were removed from Chechnya and safely returned to Russia for protection.
The mission of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative is to secure, recover and/or facilitate the disposal of high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world as quickly as possible. To date, approximately 230 kilograms of HEU have been returned in 14 shipments to Russia from Serbia, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Poland.
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 United States and abroad.
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