Canada, USA complete used fuel return

13 February 2020

A campaign to move used highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from Canada to the USA, which began in 2015, has been completed a year ahead of schedule, the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) have announced.

AECL and NNSA announce completion of the campaign at ICONS 2020 (Image: AECL)

The return of more than 200 kilograms of HEU from two Canadian research reactors at Chalk River Laboratories, Ontario, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, South Carolina, was completed last year, AECL and NNSA said on 12 February at the International Atomic Energy Agency's International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS) which is taking place in Vienna. It is the largest removal of used fuel to the USA completed under the Nuclear Material Removal Program, which was set up in 1996 to repatriate US-origin used nuclear fuel and other weapons-grade nuclear material from civilian sites worldwide.

"Our collaboration on this project has demonstrated, once again, that when the United States and Canada work together, we can make the world a safer place," said Lisa Gordon Hagerty, DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator, said.

Alastair MacDonald, vice president for decommissioning and waste management at AECL, said the collaboration was a "great example" of the organisations working together to advance their non-proliferation objectives and global nuclear security. "By partnering with the NNSA, we are effectively addressing our liabilities while achieving our joint commitments to HEU repatriation," he said.

The repatriated material was used in Canada's National Research Universal (NRU) and National Research Experimental (NRX) reactors. NRU, which was permanently shut down in 2018 after more than 60 years of operation, was one of the biggest and most versatile research reactors in the world and produced about 40% of global supply of the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99. NRX began operations in 1947 and was shut down in 1993.

The Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions were the main partners and played a pivotal role in the success of the campaign, AECL and NNSA said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News