Under U.S.-Russia Partnership, Final Shipment of Fuel Converted From 20,000 Russian Nuclear Warheads Arrives in United States and Will Be Used for U.S. Electricity

Press Release
Dec 11, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States and Russia are today commemorating the completion of the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement, commonly known as the Megatons to Megawatts Program, with this week's off-loading of the final shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland, from Russia. The shipment was the last of the LEU converted from more than 500 metric tons of weapons-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) downblended from roughly 20,000 dismantled Russian nuclear warheads and shipped to the United States to fuel U.S. nuclear reactors, supplying nearly ten percent of all U.S. electricity over the past fifteen years. 

“The Megatons to Megawatts Program made a substantial contribution both to the elimination of nuclear weapons material and to nuclear energy generation in the United States. Nearly every commercial nuclear reactor in the United States received nuclear fuel under the program,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “This Agreement serves as an example of what the United States and Russia can achieve when we work together, and we are carrying this success forward into other nonproliferation activities with each other and with our international partners.” 

The final shipment also signals the beginning of a new era of U.S.-Russia collaborative work in the fields of nonproliferation, science, and nuclear research and development under several far-reaching initiatives that will progress further through discussions between the United States and Russia this week. Today, Secretary Moniz, Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman, and State Corporation for Nuclear Energy (Rosatom) Director General Sergey Kirienko held talks in Washington, D.C., about the future of U.S.-Russia collaborative work in the nuclear energy field, including nuclear research and development, commercial aspects of cooperation, nuclear safety, and nonproliferation. 

Following the discussions, several collaborative initiatives are being implemented, including:

  • Memoranda under the Protocol to the Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation were signed, establishing procedures for work to support bilateral cooperation in nuclear and radiological material security, reactor conversion, combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological material, and other areas;
  • Proposed collaborative projects are moving forward under the Government-to-Government Agreement on Cooperation on Nuclear- and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development, which provides the legal framework necessary to expand cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear research laboratories in areas including nuclear technology, nonproliferation, fundamental and applied science, energy, and environment; and
  • Russia and the United States are in the process of extending the Russian-origin Research Reactor Fuel Return program, under which the Department of Energy has worked closely with Rosatom to remove all Russian-origin HEU from nine countries. With the extension of this program, additional HEU will be able to be removed from those countries where such Russian-origin material remains.

For more information about the discussions, view the Joint Statement on Future U.S.-Russia Nuclear Energy and Nonproliferation Collaboration Following the Russian Delegation Visit to the United States.

The Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s HEU Transparency Program monitored the Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion process to provide confidence that all LEU delivered to the United States under the Agreement was derived from Russian HEU of weapons origin.  Similarly, Russian monitoring rights verify the peaceful use of the material once it arrives in the United States. The United States concluded transparency monitoring in Russia at the end of October. As the respective U.S. and Russian executive agents, the United States Enrichment Corporation and Techsnabexport (“Tenex”) managed all commercial aspects and logistics of the uranium deliveries and shipments.

The final four cylinders of LEU arrived at the Port of Baltimore and subsequently departed the port for Paducah, Kentucky.  From the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the LEU will be sent to U.S. nuclear fuel fabrication facilities, converted into fuel rods, and ultimately delivered to commercial customers for use in U.S. nuclear power reactors. 

Learn more about these efforts at http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/heutransparency.

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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.