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US Removes Last Remaining HEU from Czech Republic, Sets Nonproliferation Milestone

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States’ National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Czech Republic‘s Nuclear Research Institute announced today the successful removal of 68 kilograms (approximately 150 pounds, or enough material for two nuclear weapons) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Nuclear Research Institute in Rez, Czech Republic. The removal was executed in close coordination with the Russian Federation, which has now partnered with the United States on similar projects in a total of 14 countries. With this shipment, the Czech Republic becomes the tenth country from which all HEU has been removed since President Obama announced in Prague an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world.

Since President Obama’s historic speech on April 5, 2009, NNSA and the global community have responded with an unprecedented multilateral effort that has removed more than 1,400 kilograms of HEU and plutonium, enough for dozens of nuclear weapons. Of that total amount, more than 1,200 kilograms have been removed in partnership with the Russian Federation. The United States will work with three remaining countries to remove material by the end of the year.

“Since President Obama laid out his nuclear security vision in Prague in 2009, the United States and our international partners have made remarkable strides in reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism by securing, consolidating and eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials,” said NNSA Acting Administrator Neile Miller. “Today we can say without a doubt that the world is safer from nuclear terrorism than it was four years ago. This shipment of HEU from the Czech Republic is an important part of our continuing efforts to ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon, and our work moving forward will make us even safer.”

The HEU from the Czech Republic was securely transported by truck, rail, and ship to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use in power reactors. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon. This complex operation was the culmination of a multi-year effort by the United States’ NNSA, the Czech Republic’s Nuclear Research Institute, Russia’s State Corporation for Atomic Energy “Rosatom” and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Photos of the operation have been made available on NNSA’s Flickr feed. Additional video and photos are available upon request.

This project is part of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which shares a long history of cooperation with the Czech Republic on nuclear security issues. This is the sixth GTRI shipment from the Czech Republic since 2004 and marks the complete removal of a total of 180 kilograms of HEU and all HEU from the country. GTRI also worked with the Nuclear Research Institute to convert its research reactor from HEU to LEU and install physical protection upgrades.

GTRI’s mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide. GTRI achieves its mission by converting research reactors and isotope production facilities from the use of HEU to LEU; removing excess nuclear and radiological materials; and protecting high priority nuclear and radiological materials from theft. Together these efforts provide a comprehensive approach to preventing terrorists’ access to nuclear and radiological materials. Since 1996, DOE has removed more than 3,500 kilograms of HEU and plutonium from countries around the world, resulting in 23 more countries now being free of HEU.

For a video highlighting NNSA's nonproliferation achievements over the last four years, click here.

A fact sheet on NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative is available online here.

A fact sheet on NNSA’s efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism is available here.

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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.