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Press Release

Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Hungary
Oct 23, 2008

 

*For video or photos please contact NNSA public affairs at 202-586-7371

NNSA experts and Slovenian security oversee the unloading of HEU from a secure train and onto a ship for further transport to RussiaWASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly 341 pounds (154.5 kilograms) of Soviet-era highly enriched uranium (HEU) "spent" nuclear fuel has been successfully removed from Hungary by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and secured at a Russian nuclear facility.  The HEU spent fuel was transported by truck, rail and cargo vessel in secret and secure conditions with the cooperation of several international organizations..

"This shipment of highly enriched uranium from Hungary is the largest shipment of HEU spent fuel under NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino.  "The outstanding cooperation between the United States, Hungary and Slovenia in removing and securing this dangerous nuclear material exemplifies our strong international commitment to global threat reduction and nonproliferation."

This is the fourth shipment of Russian-origin HEU spent fuel to be removed for safe and secure storage over a year-long period following shipments from the Czech Republic (80 kilograms), Latvia (14.4 kilograms) and Bulgaria (6.3 kilograms).

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent shipments of HEU to Hungary and other former Soviet allies or republics to fuel nuclear research reactors.  Hungary joins Uzbekistan, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Bulgaria as the first countries to return this HEU in spent fuel form.

Through NNSA, the United States worked in close cooperation with Hungary, Russia, Slovenia, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and Euratom to return the material in the most complex shipment completed to date, involving four separate transportation segments. 

The HEU was packaged into 13 VPVR/M specialized transportation casks that were loaded into specialized shipping containers and transported under guard by rail to the port of Koper in Slovenia.  At Koper, the containers were loaded onto a special cargo vessel and shipped to a secure seaport in Russia, where they were loaded onto railroad cars and shipped to a secure storage site in Russia.    

Hungary is a key partner in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism off site link, launched in 2006 to expand international partnerships addressing the global threat of nuclear terrorism.  This shipment from Hungary is also in accordance with a prioritized, accelerated schedule developed from the February 2005 Bush-Putin Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation off site link, which specifically called for the United States and Russian Federation to work jointly to return HEU fuel from U.S. and Soviet-designed research reactors in other countries and to take other steps to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Under this accelerated schedule, NNSA's GTRI has successfully completed 15 shipments since the Bratislava Joint Statement was issued in February 2005 and has also removed all HEU from Latvia and Bulgaria.   In addition, under GTRI's U.S.-origin fuel removal program, all eligible U.S.-origin HEU fuel has been removed from the following 16 countries – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.

GTRI's mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites worldwide.  With the successful completion of this shipment, a total of approximately 1,685 pounds (765 kilograms) of Russian-origin HEU fuel (spent and fresh) have been returned from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Vietnam and Hungary.

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.

To download video of the the casks being loaded into the shipping containers, click here (9.6 MB)

To download video of the convoy carrying the HEU, click here (5.1 MB)

To download video of the ship carrying the HEU, click here (6.3 MB)

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371