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– Lisa Beyer
Bloomberg News
August 27, 2018
Russia Takes Back HEU from Romania
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Stepping up efforts to secure materials usable in weapons of mass destruction, about 14 kg (31 lbs.) of weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU) reactor fuel was airlifted from Romania to Russia on Sept. 21. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the fuel removal cost $400,000 and was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy under a cooperative U.S.-Russia-IAEA program called the Tripartite Initiative that facilitates the return of fresh and spent fuel from Russian-designed research reactors abroad. (See ACT, July/August 2002.) Russia has agreed to refabricate the fuel into low-enriched uranium (LEU).

The fresh fuel was flown from the Institute for Nuclear Research in Pitesti, Romania, to Russia’s Chemical Concentrates Plant in Novosibirsk. The fuel was originally procured for a Russian-designed two-megawatt research reactor near Romania’s capital, Bucharest. The reactor stopped operating in December 1997, and the fresh fuel was sent to Pitesti for storage. The fuel removal is part of a three-year project to convert the U.S.-designed Pitesti reactor to LEU. The United States contributed $4 million to the IAEA for the conversion.

There are currently some 80 research reactors around the world that still have weapons-usable HEU.