Last highly-enriched uranium removed from Czech Republic

Mon, 2013-04-08 08:10 AM By: Mark Rockwell - Government SecurityNews

Czech HEU shipment
The last 150 pounds of potentially-dangerous highly-enriched uranium has been removed from the Czech Republic, marking a nuclear non-proliferation milestone, said the United States’ National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The NNSA and the Czech Republic’s Nuclear Research Institute announced on April 5 that 68 kilograms (approximately 150 pounds, or enough material for two nuclear weapons) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) was successfully removed from the Nuclear Research Institute in Rez, Czech Republic.
The removal, said NNSA, was executed in close coordination with the Russian Federation, which has now partnered with the U.S. on similar projects in 14 other countries. With the shipment, the Czech Republic becomes the tenth country from which all HEU has been removed since President Obama announced in Prague an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world, said NNSA.
Since Obama’s April 5, 2009, non-proliferation speech, NNSA said it, and the global community, have removed more than 1,400 kilograms of HEU and plutonium, enough for dozens of nuclear weapons. Of that total amount, it said, more than 1,200 kilograms have been removed in partnership with the Russian Federation. The U.S, said NNSA, will work with three remaining countries to remove material by the end of the year.
“Since President Obama laid out his nuclear security vision in Prague in 2009, the United States and our international partners have made remarkable strides in reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism by securing, consolidating and eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials,” said Neile Miller, NNSA acting administrator in an April 5 statement. “Today we can say without a doubt that the world is safer from nuclear terrorism than it was four years ago. This shipment of HEU from the Czech Republic is an important part of our continuing efforts to ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon, and our work moving forward will make us even safer.”
According to NNSA, the HEU from the Czech Republic was securely transported by truck, rail, and ship to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium (LEU) for use in power reactors. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon, said the agency. The complex operation, it added, was the culmination of a multi-year effort by the NNSA, the Czech Republic’s Nuclear Research Institute, Russia’s State Corporation for Atomic Energy “Rosatom” and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
This project is part of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The shipment, it said, is the sixth under the GTRI program from the Czech Republic since 2004 and marks the complete removal of a total of 180 kilograms of HEU and all HEU from the country. GTRI also worked with the Nuclear Research Institute to convert its research reactor from HEU to LEU and install physical protection upgrades.
GTRI’s mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide. GTRI achieves its mission by converting research reactors and isotope production facilities from the use of HEU to LEU; removing excess nuclear and radiological materials; and protecting high priority nuclear and radiological materials from theft.