WASHINGTON, D.C. - - Three kilograms of Russian-origin material that could be used for a nuclear weapon has been removed from Libya with support from the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The fresh highly enriched uranium (HEU) was safely and securely returned to Russia from the Tajoura research reactor in Libya.
"International security relies on our ability to work together with other countries and partners to protect and safeguard nuclear material around the world," said NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks. "Libya's cooperation and commitment was key to this joint nonproliferation effort. It is a clear indication of Libya's continued commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and proliferation-sensitive materials."
The two-day operation to remove the HEU was conducted jointly under NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative by the United States, Libya, the Russian Federation, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the Tajoura Research Center, the HEU was loaded into three specialized transportation containers provided by the Russian Federation.
NNSA technical experts and IAEA safeguards inspectors monitored the process to load the fuel into canisters. The containers were airlifted under guard from an airport near Tripoli, Libya to a secure facility in Russia. The HEU will be down blended into low enriched uranium (LEU).
Since renouncing its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Libya has been cooperating with the United States on a wide range of nonproliferation activities. This latest shipment is part of a multi-step project to remove all Russian-origin HEU material from Libya. An earlier unannounced shipment of 17 kilograms of HEU was returned to Russia in 2004.
Other GTRI activities already completed in Libya include the conversion of the Tajoura critical assembly to operate on LEU fuel earlier this year, and the supply of the replacement LEU fuel to enable the conversion of the Tajoura IRT-1 research reactor, which should be converted in the next several months.
The mission of GTRI is to identify, secure, recover and/or facilitate the final disposition of high-risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world as quickly as possible. To date, approximately 189 kilograms of HEU have been returned in 13 shipments to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Latvia, and the Czech Republic.
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.
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