Non-proliferation milestone for Southeast Asia

30 August 2016

Southeast Asia has been declared free of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) following the completion of a collaborative project to downblend Indonesia's stock of HEU to low-enriched uranium (LEU).

At the Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington DC in March, US President Barack Obama and Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced the successful down-blending of all fresh HEU fuel to LEU and committed to completing the down-blending of the 1.4kg of irradiated HEU by next month.

Since then, the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has worked with the Indonesian Nuclear Industry LLC, the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) and the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency to downblend over 500 bottles of irradiated HEU stored in hot cells. This HEU was mixed with depleted uranium to reduce the U-235 content in the solution to below 20%.

NNSA deputy administrator Anne Harrington said, "The elimination of all highly-enriched uranium from Indonesia permanently reduces the threat that it could be used by a terrorist to make a nuclear weapon." She added, "This non-proliferation achievement is particularly significant as it makes all of Southeast Asia HEU-free. It also highlights NNSA's commitment to finding domestic disposition solutions for proliferation-sensitive nuclear material around the world."

The irradiated HEU was residual material from medical isotope production by state-owned Indonesian Nuclear Industry LLC for the production of molybdenum-99 until 2011. Indonesia plans to restart molybdenum production using LEU in late 2016.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News