NNSA Removes All U.S.-Origin Highly Enriched Uranium Fuel from the Republic of Korea

Press Release
Sep 19, 2007
12th Country to Entirely Remove All U.S.-Origin HEU Research Reactor Fuel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) achieved a significant milestone by removing all of the U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium fuel from the Republic of Korea. NNSA removed 11 "fresh" fuel assemblies containing approximately four pounds of highly enriched uranium from the Korea Research Reactors 1 and 2 located at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute in Daejeon, South Korea.

"One of NNSA's top priorities is to secure civilian nuclear sites by removing material, such as highly enriched uranium, which could be used by terrorists in a nuclear weapon. NNSA was able to remove completely all such material from the South Korean civil facilities," said NNSA's head of nuclear nonproliferation William Tobey.

The fuel assemblies were packaged in South Korea and transported to NNSA's Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee where the material will be stored. NNSA, through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative, works with other countries to accept, return and secure U.S.-origin fresh and spent nuclear fuel from research reactors that are in foreign countries. The ultimate goal is to reduce and eventually eliminate of the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian nuclear applications worldwide.

The shipment is part of the prioritized, accelerated schedule outlined in the 2005 Bratislava joint nuclear security statement between Presidents Bush and Putin, which specifically called for the United States and Russia to return fresh and spent highly enriched uranium fuel from U.S. and Russian-designed research reactors located in third party countries.

In addition, the shipment supports the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism launched by Presidents Bush and Putin in 2006 to expand international partnerships addressing the global threat of nuclear terrorism. The Republic of Korea is a key partner in the initiative and their participation in NNSA's program to remove the fuel demonstrates their strong commitment to the initiative's goals.

To date, NNSA completed 40 shipments from 27 countries - repatriating enough U.S.-origin fuel to make 45 improvised nuclear devices (1,139 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and 2,439 kilograms of low enriched uranium spent nuclear fuel). In addition, South Korea is the 12th country to completely remove all U.S.-origin research reactor fuel. The other countries are: Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Philippines, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

Established by Congress in 2000, 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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