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NNSA Administrator Highlights U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Reactor Conversion Program during Moscow Symposium

Washington, D.C. – National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Thomas P. D’Agostino today highlighted the strong cooperation between the United States and Russia on minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian research reactors.  During remarks delivered during a symposium co-hosted by the Russian Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academies of Science, Administrator D’Agostino said converting research reactors to the use of low enriched uranium (LEU) is “a vital international security priority” and called it “vital to the nuclear security agenda outlined by our two presidents.”

The Administrator’s speech came during U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu’s weeklong visit to Russia, during which the Secretary is highlighting the strong cooperation and shared economic opportunities with Russia in the areas of innovative clean energy technology, safe and reliable civilian nuclear power, best practices in energy efficiency, and nuclear non-proliferation.  In addition to discussing the research reactors program, Administrator D’Agostino highlighted the strong partnership between the United States and Russia on global nuclear nonproliferation efforts. 

The following are excerpts of Administrator D’Agostino’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

• ON THE PEACEFUL USE OF THE ATOM: “Humankind’s relationship with the atom is a complicated one.  The same technologies that hold the key to lifesaving medical treatments or the promise of clean and abundant sources of energy also have the potential to bring about unthinkable dangers.  No one understands that paradox better than the people in this room.”

• ON THE ROLE OF SCIENCE IN SECURITY: “Science, technology and engineering are the core of everything we do.  I am grateful for the contributions all of you have made to science and to the U.S.-Russia nuclear security partnership. That partnership continues to grow.   It is stronger than ever. And it is vital to global peace and security, as well as the safety and security of our two nations.”  

• ON MINIMIZAING THE USE OF HEU: “Our topic today is one that is vital to the nuclear security agenda outlined by our two presidents.  Minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium is a vital international security priority.  It is also an area in which the great minds gathered in this room can play a critical role.”

• ON U.S.-RUSSIAN COOPERATION ON NUCLEAR SECURITY: “Together, we have accelerated our efforts to secure, convert and remove U.S.-origin and Russian-origin HEU at facilities around the world.  Working together and with international partners, NNSA and Rosatom have completed 43 successful shipments since 2002, returning approximately 1,590 kilograms of HEU fresh and spent fuel to Russia from third countries.  That is the equivalent of over 60 nuclear weapons.”

• ON REDUCING THE ROLE OF HEU: “Each reactor converted reduces the amount of HEU in international commerce, reduces the global demand for HEU fuel, increases the demand for LEU fuel and thus greatly decreases the odds that the wrong people will gain possession of this dangerous material.  As the countries with by far the largest civilian nuclear complexes, the United States and Russia have a unique responsibility to lead in these efforts.”

• ON REACTOR COVERSIONS IN THE UNITED STATES: “This work in Russia is taking place in parallel with our ongoing efforts in the United States to develop a new LEU fuel that will allow for the conversion of six U.S. high performance research reactors.  All research reactors in the United States that can be converted using existing qualified LEU fuel have been converted or verified as shutdown.”  

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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 in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the 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.