All US-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) has now been removed from Australia and returned to the USA, the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced.
The last shipment, consisting of some 14.5 kg (32 pounds) of HEU, left Australia on 16 March. It consisted of 159 used fuel elements resulting from the operation of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization's (Ansto's) former Hifar research reactor at Lucas Heights, near Sydney. The shipment was transported to the US Department of Energy's Savannah River Site by truck, rail and ship.
The NNSA said, "With the completion of this shipment, NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative has successfully removed more than 100 kg (220 pounds) of US-origin HEU fuel from Australia since 1998."
This total includes used fuel resulting from the operation of both the former Moata and Hifar research reactors at Lucas Heights. The Hifar reactor has now been replaced with the new Opal research reactor, which is fuelled by low enriched uranium. Ansto said that it does not expect to ship any used fuel from Opal until after 2014.
NNSA principal deputy administrator Ken Baker commented, "The NNSA worked closely with Australia to oversee this important shipment of highly enriched uranium spent nuclear fuel." He added the removal was "another major milestone in NNSA's cooperative effort to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and demonstrates the strong international commitment to non-proliferation."
The shipment marks the 47th shipment of US-origin fuel safely returned to the USA and is the ninth shipment of its kind by Ansto since 1963.
Since its inception in May 2004, the US-origin fuel removal program has returned more than 1215 kilograms (2679 pounds) of US-origin HEU fuel to the USA from 27 countries. The program has now removed all eligible US-origin HEU fuel from the following 17 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.