Swiss research reactor fuel returned to USA

16 September 2015

The return of US-origin highly-enriched uranium (HEU) from the University of Basel to the USA marks the removal of all HEU in the country.

The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced on 10 September that some 2.2kg of US-origin HEU Material Test Reactor-type fuel for the university's AGN-211-P research reactor had been sent back to the USA. The open pool reactor began operation in 1961 and was used for educational and research purposes until its closure in 2013.

The University of Basel - in cooperation with the Swiss government, the Paul Sherrer Institute and NNSA's Office of Defence Nuclear Non-proliferation - packaged and transported the 13 irradiated HEU fuel elements in a used fuel cask that was transported to Charleston, South Carolina, in a specially outfitted, dedicated ship. The material was then transported to its final destination at DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

The shipment marks the complete removal of all HEU from Switzerland.

The shipment was made under NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which aims to reduce and secure vulnerable radioactive materials held at civilian sites around the world. Since the late 1970s, international efforts have sought to convert research reactors to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel under the Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors program and repatriating used and unused HEU fuel to its country of origin - either the USA or Russia - for secure storage and ultimately disposal.

NNSA deputy administrator Anne Harrington said, "We are delighted to share this important milestone with the Swiss government and the Paul Sherrer Institute, and want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important partnership that made this possible. Our collaboration advances global efforts to secure, consolidate, and minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium so that it does not fall into the hands of terrorists."

The NNSA said the GTRI and its predecessor programs have removed or confirmed the disposition of more than 5140kg of HEU and plutonium, and have now removed all HEU from 27 countries and Taiwan.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News