NNSA removes final shipment of Highly Enriched Uranium from Serbia
Thu, 2010-12-23 09:07 AM
|Vinca Institute for Nuclear Sciences|
With the removal of 28 pounds of highly enriched Uranium from a Serbian research facility, American and Serbian officials said the country is now free of the dangerous material that could be used to make illicit nuclear explosives.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said Dec. 22 it had removed 13 kilograms of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) spent fuel from the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Serbia. The shipment is the culmination of an eight-year effort to remove all HEU from Serbia and makes that nation the sixth country to eliminate all of its HEU since April 2009.
“With the removal of all remaining highly enriched uranium from Serbia, we are one step closer to achieving the President’s goal of securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “The elimination of this material reduces the risk that it could be stolen by terrorists and highlights Serbia’s commitment to global nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”
NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) worked in partnership on this mission under a cost-sharing arrangement with the Republic of Serbia, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the Czech Republic, the Russian Federation and the European Union, said NNSA in a Dec. 22 statement. In addition to the 13 kg of HEU spent fuel, said the statement, the shipment also included approximately 2.5 metric tons of low-enriched uranium spent fuel. The agency maintains the material’s removal enhances security not just in Europe, but in the United States and globally, as dangerous material is made less accessible.
In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama called for an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. Shipments like the one recently completed from Serbia result in permanent threat reduction because they eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material at civilian sites, according to NNSA. With the successful completion of this shipment, NNSA said it has removed or assisted with the disposition of 3,031 kilograms of HEU and plutonium – enough material to make more than 120 nuclear weapons.
The Serbian material was packaged into specially-designed transportation casks, secured in specialized shipping containers, and transported in an armed convoy from the site to a nearby rail station. The material was then transported by rail to a Slovenian seaport where it was loaded onto a vessel and transported to the Russian Federation for secure storage and disposition, said NNSA.
The U.S. and Serbia share a long history of cooperation on nuclear nonproliferation issues, said NNSA. Cooperation at the Vinca Institute began in August 2002 when the U.S. government, Russia, and the IAEA removed 48.4 kilograms (more than 100 pounds) of HEU fresh fuel as part of the first shipment of Russian-origin HEU back to Russia, according to the agency. NTI also played a crucial role in gaining agreement for this shipment and providing financial support.
NNSA also partnered with Serbia in 1996 to improve security at the Vinca facility, and to install physical security upgrades at the site.
Subsequently, NNSA said it worked with the public company “Nuclear Facilities of Serbia” to install follow-on physical security enhancements at the Vinca spent fuel storage building as well as other buildings that use and store radiological sources. In March 2010, GTRI facilitated a table top exercise at Vinca to improve response procedures and the integration of on-site and off-site response forces.