Some nine kilograms of US-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) research reactor fuel has been shipped from Germany to the USA, marking the return of all such material from the country.
The US Department of Energy's (DoE's) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said that the material, transported by sea and rail, was the fourth shipment completed during the past year. Together, the four shipments have returned a total of almost 52 kg of HEU to the USA. In addition, the shipments also mean that all US-origin HEU has been returned from Argentina, Portugal and Romania.
NNSA administrator Thomas D'Agostino commented, "The complete removal of all eligible US-origin highly enriched uranium from Argentina, Portugal, Romania and Germany is another milestone in NNSA's cooperative effort to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and demonstrates the US government's strong international commitment to non-proliferation."
In the 1950's, under the Atoms for Peace program, the USA provided HEU reactor fuel to further other countries' research into peaceful uses of nuclear energy, with the provision that the fuel would be returned to the US after use. Recovering the fuel is now a major non-proliferation effort of the NNSA.
The program to return US-origin HEU fuel began in the early 1990s. In 2004, the program became part of the NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which works to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites around the world.
So far, the US-origin research reactor fuel return program has seen 45 shipments, totalling 1190 kg of US-origin HEU, from 27 countries. The NNSA said this is sufficient for the production of over 45 nuclear weapons. The HEU fuel assemblies are stored at the DoE's interim management site, at Savannah River in South Carolina, until final disposition arrangements are made.
The program has now removed all US-origin HEU fuel from 16 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.