NNSA Announces Elimination of More Than 400 Metric Tons of Russian HEU

Press Release
Sep 9, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC - The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 400 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) – the equivalent of more than 16,000 nuclear weapons – under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program.

The 1993 U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement is now 80 percent complete and by 2013 will convert 500 MT of HEU from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons into low enriched uranium (LEU) for peaceful nuclear energy use. Nearly half of all electricity generated in commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S. comes from fuel that has its origins in Russian nuclear weapons.

"This is the ultimate swords to plowshares program, and I commend the continued joint commitment of the U.S. and Russian Federation to the safe and irreversible elimination of excess fissile materials under this important bilateral agreement," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "This milestone puts us one step closer to accomplishing the President's goal of securing or eliminating all weapons-usable nuclear materials worldwide."

The agreement requires the Russian Federation to convert weapons-origin HEU into LEU in Russia. The LEU is then delivered to the U.S. where it is fabricated into nuclear fuel and used in commercial reactors to generate approximately 10 percent of all electrical power nationwide.

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 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, and this information allows the U.S. to confirm that Russian HEU conversion activities fulfill the agreement’s nonproliferation goals.

To date, the NNSA Program has conducted 290 monitoring visits to Russian HEU processing facilities, and U.S. experts monitor the elimination of 30 metric tons of HEU each year – the annual equivalent of 1,200 nuclear weapons. The Russian Federation also conducts reciprocal monitoring activities at U.S. facilities to confirm the peaceful use of all LEU delivered under the agreement.

The United States Enrichment Corp. 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 in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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.