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RF, US convert Maria nuke reactor in Poland, remove HEU

September 26, 2012, 11:20 UTC+3

As a result of the conversion, the research reactor at the National Centre for Nuclear Research was converted from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel

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WASHINGTON, September 26 (Itar-Tass) — Russia and the United States on Tuesday successfully completed the conversion of the Maria nuclear reactor in Poland and removal of highly enriched uranium from the facility, the press service of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) within the US Department of Energy announced later in the day.

According to the NNSA press release, the NNSA, working in partnership with the Polish and Russian governments and the National Centre for Nuclear Research, announced (on Sept 25) the successful conversion of the Maria Research Reactor in Otwock, Poland. As a result of the conversion, the research reactor at the National Centre for Nuclear Research was converted from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. In total, 27 kilograms of Russian-origin HEU fresh fuel and 61.9 kilograms of HEU spent fuel from the facility were returned to Russia. These projects are part of joint non-proliferation efforts between the United States and Poland that support the international community’s effort to secure nuclear materials around the world in four years.

Through its Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), NNSA worked in close partnership with its counterparts at the National Centre for Nuclear Research to achieve the Maria Reactor’s conversion from HEU to LEU fuel by providing technical, analytical and licensing support, according to NNSA.

American officials have highly assessed the work done. “Poland is a key partner in our nuclear threat reduction efforts,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defence Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The conversion of the Maria Reactor to low-enriched uranium fuel and the removal of nearly 90 kilograms of highly enriched uranium fuel are significant achievements in our mutual efforts to secure and eliminate highly enriched uranium so that it cannot fall into the wrong hands.”

Moscow and Washington will repatriate the highly enriched nuclear fuel they produced, delivered earlier to third countries for research purposes, in accordance with the Russian-American intergovernmental agreement. It was concluded in order to strengthen the international non-proliferation regime at the meeting of Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush in Bratislava in 2005.

According to data provided to Itar-Tass earlier by the NNSA press service, all once supplied Soviet-made uranium had now been removed from Bulgaria, Latvia, Libya, Romania and Serbia to Russia. This material makes 62 percent of the total Soviet production in third countries. Meanwhile, HEU created in the Soviet Union to date remains in 10 more states. It is planned that “by the end of 2013 it will be taken out of six countries,” the NNSA press service said.

In addition, since 2004, over 320 kilograms of US-produced spent nuclear fuel has been taken to the United States from Australia, Argentina, Austria, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Japan and Taiwan.

The conversion of the Maria reactor ensures that the reactor will continue its important mission of conducting critical scientific research, while also promoting safety and security. Under GTRI, 82 research reactors around the world that used HEU have converted to LEU fuel or been verified as shut down.

According to the NNSA, after the successful conversion of the reactor, GTRI returned the unused HEU fresh fuel and the previously discharged HEU spent fuel to Russia. GTRI cooperated closely with Polish authorities, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Russian Federation to successfully complete the removal operation. The HEU will be downblended into LEU for use in nuclear power plants. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon. With the completion of this operation, GTRI has now removed and/or eliminated more than 3,450 kilograms of HEU and plutonium (enough material for more than 135 nuclear weapons).

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