High-enriched uranium returned from Ghana

30 August 2017

High-enriched uranium has been flown from Ghana back to China in the removal of all such material from the country. The Ghanaian research reactor has been converted to use low-enriched fuel instead.

The material came from the GHARR-1 Miniature Neutron Source Reactor at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission's (GAEC's) National Research Centre Institute in Accra.

Ghanaian HEU loaded on a trailer during transport to China, 29 august 2017 (IAEA - Sandor Miklos Tozser) 460x345
The HEU, within a TUK/145/C MNSR package, is loaded on a trailer during its journey (Image: IAEA - Sandor Miklos Tozser)

The fuel was enriched to 90% uranium-235, which means it could potentially have been diverted to a weapons program, although it only amounted to 1 kg. The conversion of the unit with the help of its Chinese designers and the removal of the material nevertheless eliminates this possibility. Similar reactors exist in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, as well as China.

Pictures release by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) show a large transport cask being loaded onto an aircraft in Ghana and unloaded in China. The operation was conducted by the GAEC and the China Institute of Atomic Energy with support from the IAEA and the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). The US bodies have so far helped repatriate some 6275 kg of HEU from 33 territories.

GHARR-1 is the first such unit outside of China to be converted to LEU. "With this pioneer engagement, Ghana demonstrated the feasibility of the conversion of these reactors outside of China," said Kwame Aboh, project manager at GAEC. NNSA has said it is cooperating with Nigeria to complete a similar project there.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News