Vietnam: Research reactor converts to LEU

20 March 2007

Vietnam, Russia and the USA have signed an agreement to replace highly enriched uranium fuel at Vietnam's only research reactor with low enriched fuel.

The contract signed by the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Russian nuclear fuel manfacturer TVEL, and the Vietnamese Atomic Energy Commission will replace highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel at the Dalat research reactor, currently enriched to 36% uranium-235, with fuel enriched to less than 20% uranium-235 (LEU). The VVR-M2 fuel, which will be manufactured in Russia by TVEL, is to be supplied under the Russian-American Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) programme. Delivery is scheduled for September 2007.

RERTR was initiated by the US DoE in 1978, to develop the technical means to convert research reactors and isotope production processes, which use HEU, to LEU fuels. HEU is seen as a potential proliferation threat as, at some enrichment levels, it could in theory be used to make a nuclear weapon. Forty-six research reactors world wide have so far been converted to LEU fuel, and the programme aims to convert all of its targeted 106 reactors by 2014. Not all are able to use existing forms of LEU fuel, and research is under way to develop LEU fuels to enable other research reactors to be converted. RERTR is complemented by the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return program, which sees the return of Russian-supplied fresh and used nuclear fuel. The US projects are administered through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).

Dalat is Vietnam’s only research reactor and has been operating since 1963.

Further information

TVEL

NNSA

WNA’s Research Reactorsinformation paper

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