WASHINGTON, D.C. – Nearly 14 pounds (6.3 kg.) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in "spent" nuclear fuel was secured today at a Russian nuclear facility. The Soviet-era HEU spent fuel was transported by truck, barge, and rail in secret and secure conditions by the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) from Bulgaria with the cooperation of several international organizations.
"The complete removal of all highly enriched uranium from Bulgaria is another milestone in NNSA's cooperative effort to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and prevent nuclear terrorism," said NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino. "Bulgaria's commitment to remove and secure dangerous nuclear and radiological material at civilian nuclear sites demonstrates the international commitment to nonproliferation and global threat reduction."
In the 1970s, the Soviet Union sent several shipments to Bulgaria. This is the second shipment of HEU to be safely and securely sent to Russia from Bulgaria. The first shipment of 37.3 pounds (16.9 kg.) of HEU "fresh" fuel occurred in December 2003.
Through NNSA's Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), the United States worked in close cooperation with the Russian Federation, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to pack, secure and ship the material. It was packaged into three VPVR/M specialized transportation casks and then transported under guard from the IRT-2000 Research Reactor in Sofia to the Danube River, where it was loaded onto a barge and shipped to the port of Ismail in Ukraine. At Ismail, it was loaded onto two railroad platforms and shipped to a secure Russian facility near Chelyabinsk. GTRI has also worked to upgrade security and protect 28 radiological sites in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a key partner in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism launched by Presidents Bush and Putin in 2006 to expand international partnerships addressing the global threat of nuclear terrorism.
The shipment from Bulgaria is also in accordance with a prioritized, accelerated schedule developed from the February 2005 Bush-Putin Bratislava Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation, which specifically called for the United States and Russia to work jointly to return HEU fuel from U.S. and Soviet-designed research reactors in other countries and to take other steps to reduce the threat of global nuclear terrorism. In support of this accelerated schedule, GTRI has already removed over 220 pounds (100 kg.) of Soviet-origin HEU fuel to date in FY 2008.
Also, in June of this year, Bulgaria agreed to expand cooperation to prevent the smuggling of dangerous nuclear and radiological materials by working with NNSA to install radiation detection equipment at multiple international points of entry and exit along its borders. NNSA is also helping to train Bulgarian customs, border police, and export control personnel to recognize and interdict export controlled commodities and weapons of mass destruction-related materials or technology.
Bulgaria is the second country under which GTRI has removed all HEU received from the Soviet Union after Latvia removed all of its HEU in May.
GTRI has also completed the removal of all U.S.-origin HEU spent fuel from 13 countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Philippines, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and Thailand.
GTRI's mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials located at civilian sites worldwide. With the successful completion of the shipment from Bulgaria today, a total of approximately 1,345 pounds (610 kg.) of HEU fuel (spent and fresh) have been returned to Russia from Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Libya, Uzbekistan, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Latvia, and Vietnam.
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.
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