NNSA Removes Highly Enriched Uranium From Czech Republic

Press Release
Dec 11, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced today the safe and secure return of 80 kilograms (176 lbs) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in "spent" nuclear fuel to Russia from the Nuclear Research Institute in Rez, Czech Republic.  The spent HEU was transported by rail, in secret and under secure conditions, with the cooperation of several countries.

"The best way to prevent nuclear proliferation is to prevent nuclear materials from getting into the wrong hands in the first place.  This is the single biggest shipment of Russian-origin HEU spent fuel to be returned to Russia, under NNSA's mission to reduce the threat of nuclear or radiological proliferation and prevent nuclear terrorism," said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation William Tobey.  "We congratulate the Czech Republic for its leadership role in returning this Russian-origin HEU spent fuel." 

The 2005 Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation calls for the United States and Russia to return HEU fuel from U.S. and Russian-designed research reactors in other countries.  The Czech Republic is also a key partner in 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.

Through NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), the United States worked with the Czech Republic, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Ukraine, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to return the material.  It was packaged into sixteen specialized transportation casks and then transported under guard from the Nuclear Research Institute to a railroad station near Rez, Czech Republic.  At the railroad station, the casks were loaded onto special railroad cars and shipped through Slovakia and Ukraine to a secure Russian facility, where the spent fuel will be processed.

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 of spent fuel, which is material that has already been used in a nuclear reactor, a total of approximately 590 kilograms or almost 24 nuclear weapons-worth of HEU fuel has been returned to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Poland, Germany, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Vietnam.  The Czech Republic is the second country from which Russian-origin HEU spent fuel has been returned to Russia.  Four shipments of spent fuel from Uzbekistan totaling 63 kilograms were shipped to Russia in 2006.

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 United States and abroad.

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