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NNSA deputy administrator travels to Ukraine

Earlier this month, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington traveled to Ukraine to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU) and visit the Neutron Source Facility at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt; diplomats from Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, and the European Union; STCU Governing Board Chair Eddie Maier; STCU Executive Director Curtis Bjelajac; and Ukraine Deputy Minister for Education and Science Maksym Strikha spoke at the event, noting the center’s history, the 12,000 former Soviet weapon scientists it engaged in peaceful research projects, and the its future role in the region.

The STCU was established under a multilateral agreement in 1993, and became operational in 1995 with a mission to engage former weapons scientists and engineers in research and development for peaceful applications. Since then, the STCU has helped NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation program implement several initiatives with STCU member states. These included $30 million in joint projects involving U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory experts and Ukrainian and Georgian scientists. STCU also managed conceptual design studies with Argonne National Laboratory and the Kharkiv Institute for a Neutron Source Facility at the institute.

NNSA continues to play a major role in the center’s effort to address the threat of proliferation of nuclear and radiological materials. Working in close coordination with the State Department and the members of the STCU Governing Board, NNSA is funding several targeted initiatives focused on specific nuclear security priorities, including seismic monitoring, hazard mitigation, and radiological source risk mitigation in well-logging applications.

Harrington, with Assistant Deputy Administrator for Material Management and Minimization Peter Hanlon and Director for Strategic Planning/Integration Andy Hood, also traveled to the Kharkiv Institute to visit the Neutron Source Facility. The NSF is a state-of-the-art experimental facility consisting of an accelerator-driven subcritical assembly using low enriched uranium fuel that will allow for advanced scientific research and medical isotope production when fully operational.

DOE funded the construction of the NSF in exchange for the removal of the remaining 230 kilograms of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Ukraine prior to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit.This fulfilled a pledge made at the 2010 Summit.  

This cooperation follows Ukraine’s long and significant history in supporting nuclear nonproliferation. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Ukraine inherited the third-largest nuclear warhead stockpile in the world. However, in 1994, Ukraine joined the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (as a non-nuclear weapon state and began voluntarily transferring its inherited nuclear weapons to Russia for elimination. Today, Ukraine is one of 29 countries and Taiwan to have eliminated all HEU from its territory through cooperative efforts with the United States.