WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that it successfully eliminated 100 metric tons of U.S. highly enriched uranium (HEU), enough for thousands of nuclear weapons. For the last decade, the U.S. HEU disposition program has eliminated surplus HEU from the nuclear weapons program by downblending the HEU into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use as commercial nuclear reactor fuel.
"Eliminating 100 metric tons of highly enriched uranium - enough for thousands of nuclear weapons - ultimately prevents this material from ever again being used in a nuclear weapon," said NNSA's Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation William Tobey. "Disposing of HEU is also a tangible demonstration of the U.S. commitment to draw down our nuclear arsenal in a transparent and irreversible manner."
The U.S. HEU disposition program has substantially reduced the quantity of fissile materials in storage throughout the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, helping to create a smaller, safer, more secure and less expensive nuclear weapons complex. HEU downblending also provides substantial economic benefits to the United States through the sale of LEU for safe use in power and research reactors around the world.
To date, approximately 217 metric tons of HEU have been declared excess to U.S. defense needs and are scheduled to be down-blended. Downblending takes place at the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., and the Y-12 National Security Complex, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., as well as two commercial facilities licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Products Division in Lynchburg, Va., and Nuclear Fuel Services, Inc. in Erwin, Tenn.
Established by Congress in 2000, the 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 U.S. and abroad.
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