NNSA Announces Removal of Last Highly Enriched Uranium from Romania; Air Shipment of Russian-Origin Spent Fuel

Press Release
Jun 30, 2009

NNSA Announces Removal of Last Highly Enriched Uranium from Romania; Air Shipment of Russian-Origin Spent FuelRomania First Country to Completely Remove all HEU Since Landmark Obama Nuclear Security Speech

Casks carrying the spent HEU are being loaded and secured in a specially designed cargo container for air transport.WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration today announced the final shipments of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) nuclear fuel from Romania.  The material was removed and returned to Russia by air for storage at two secure nuclear facilities, making Romania the first country to remove all HEU since President Obama outlined his commitment to securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.  This was also the first time NNSA has shipped "spent" HEU by airplane, a development that will help accelerate efforts to meet the President's objective.

"With these shipments, all HEU has been successfully removed from Romania," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino.  "This represents a major step forward in NNSA's ongoing efforts to implement President Obama's unprecedented nuclear security agenda by securing vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide and reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.  Not only do these shipments clean-out the last of the HEU in Romania, but the successful use of an airplane to return spent fuel to Russia opens new opportunities to accelerate our schedule of spent fuel shipments.  We very much appreciate the efforts of Romania, Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency in this cooperative effort."

 

 

The shipments are part of NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which also removed all U.S.-origin HEU from Romania in 2008.  NNSA worked in close cooperation with Romania, Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency to return the material. 

In one shipment, 23.7 kilograms (52 pounds) of spent HEU stored at a research reactor in Magurele, Romania, was packaged into Russian TUK-19 specialized transportation casks. The casks were then secured in shipping containers, transported in an armed convoy from the reactor site to a nearby airport, loaded onto an Antonov-124 cargo plane, and flown to a secure facility in Russia near Chelyabinsk. 

In addition, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of fresh HEU from a reactor in Pitesti was shipped by air to a secure Russian facility near Dimitrovgrad.  

With the completion of these shipments, Romania is the 14th country to have all of its HEU removed.  Previous countries to have all HEU removed include Brazil, Bulgaria, Columbia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Philippines, Portugal, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.  This results in permanent threat reduction because it eliminates bomb material at civilian sites.  Each kilogram of HEU that is removed reduces the risk of a terrorist bomb. 

In a speech in Prague earlier this year, President Obama outlined his commitment to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years and build on our efforts to detect and intercept nuclear materials in transit.  NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative is a critical element of efforts to achieve those objectives.

The shipments from Romania are in accordance with a prioritized, accelerated schedule developed from the February 2005 Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation, which specifically called for international cooperation to return HEU fuel from U.S. and Russian-designed research reactors in other countries and to take other steps to reduce the threat of global nuclear terrorism. 

GTRI's mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites worldwide.  With the successful completion of these shipments, a total of approximately 862 kilograms (1,896 lbs) of Russian-origin HEU fuel have been returned from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Vietnam since the program began. 

A fact sheet on NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative is available online.

 NNSA also agreed in September 2008 to work with the Romanian Frontier Police to equip selected sites with radiation detection equipment and provide training in use and response as part of the Second Line of Defence Program, which helps detect, deter, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radiological materials.  NNSA's International Nuclear Export Control Program has been working with the Romanian Border Police since 2004 to prevent illicit transfers of material, equipment, and technology related to weapons of mass destruction.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation's national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Video of the loading

Video of the secure transport.

To download high resolution photos click on the link below each photo.

Cask loaded with highly enriched uranium.Casks carrying the spent HEU are being loaded and secured in a specially designed cargo container for air transport.Cargo containers of highly enriched uranium loaded onto the cargo plane for final removal.
 High Resolution Photo High Resolution PhotoHigh Resolution Photo

The cargo containers carry the last HEU from Romania aboard the cargo plane just before departure to Russia.

High Resolution Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media contact(s):
NNSA Public Affairs (202) 586-7371