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NNSA Cooperates With Argentina, South Africa and Ukraine To Convert Research Reactors

October 13, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that in cooperation with international partners, they have successfully converted three research and test reactors from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU).  As part of its nonproliferation mission, NNSA provides support to convert research reactors in the U.S. and around the world that operate on HEU fuel to LEU fuel, which is important to threat reduction efforts that minimize the use of HEU in civilian applications.

NNSA has now worked with 32 countries to convert or verify the shutdown of a cumulative total of 62 HEU research reactors.  This includes seven research and test reactors that were converted or verified as shutdown in 2008.

"We commend the recent efforts of the Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica in Argentina, the Kiev Institute of Nuclear Research in Ukraine, and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (NECSA) for their efforts in converting these research reactors," said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation William Tobey.  "These successful conversions demonstrate NNSA's strong international commitment to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium around the world."

These research reactors were converted from the use of HEU to LEU fuel in cooperation with NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative.  In Argentina and Ukraine, NNSA provided the funding for the conversions and collaborated closely with Argentina's Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica and staff at the RA-6 reactor and Ukraine's WWR-M reactor at the Kiev Institute of Nuclear Research to accomplish the joint project.  The conversion of the SAFARI-1 reactor at Pelindaba in South Africa was also performed in cooperation with GTRI's reactor conversion program.

In March, 2008, the VVR-SM research reactor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Uzbekistan was converted from HEU to LEU fuel.  More recently on September 29, 2008, NNSA, Oregon State University, and Washington State University cooperated to complete the conversion of two additional U.S. research reactors.  In addition, the Zero Power Physics Reactor (ZPPR) began decommissioning last week through support provided by NNSA.  These three additional international conversions highlight the U.S. commitment under the 2005 Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation issued by President Bush and former President Putin in February 2005. Under that Presidential Joint Statement, the United States and Russia agreed to work together to convert more than 30 U.S. and Russian-supplied research reactors internationally. Since the Bratislava Joint Statement, 16 international research and test reactors have either been converted to LEU or been verified as shut down.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science.  NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce 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.

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