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Final batch of nuclear fuel under Russia-US program sent to US processing plant

December 11, 2013, 10:28 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
The final batch of fuel extracted from Russian nuclear warheads under the Megatons to Megawatts program on Tuesday was dispatched from Baltimore to a processing plant in Paducah
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© ITAR-TASS/Ilya Yakovlev

WASHINGTON, December 11. /ITAR-TASS/. The final batch of fuel extracted from Russian nuclear warheads under the Megatons to Megawatts program on Tuesday was dispatched from Baltimore port (Maryland) to a processing plant in Paducah (Kentucky), the US, enrichment corporation USEC has announced.

USEC President John Welch called the program historic. He said that his corporation and its Russian partner — Techsnabexport, in close co-operation with the US and Russian governments had given an impetus to the generation of clean electricity. “Together, USEC and Techsnabexport (TENEX), working in close partnership with our respective governments in the United States and Russia, have fuelled the production of clean, reliable electricity through an historic non-proliferation program that USEC funded at no cost to taxpayers,” Welch said. “Over the past two decades, our commercial business operations have greatly advanced the strategic policy goals of our national governments, benefitting all mankind with a safer, cleaner world,” he added.

“Our program’s success resulted from strong bilateral co-operation and dedication to the effective execution of the contract over the long term,” Welch said. “Our companies have worked together to implement the contract on terms that benefit both countries while providing America’s nuclear reactors with competitively priced nuclear fuel. To that end, USEC’s long-term contracts with American utilities supported the contract and provided stability to the program.”

USEC said that “Since 1995, USEC has purchased more than 14,000 metric tons of low enriched uranium downblended from 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium that has been extracted from the equivalent of 20,000 Russian nuclear warheads.”

Russia and the United States launched the Megatons to Megawatts program, also known as HEU-LEU (highly enriched uranium — low enriched uranium) in February 1993 when their governments signed an agreement “On the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons.” Under this project, Russia committed to processing of 500 tonnes of highly enriched uranium extracted from nuclear weapons, into power-engineering enriched uranium product. The produced LEU was sold to US Enrichment Corporation USEC, which paid for enrichment services, returning natural uranium equivalent to the volume that would used if the enriched uranium product was obtained from natural uranium.

The final batch of containers within the HEU-LEU program had been shipped from St. Petersburg to Baltimore in mid-November. The shipment contained uranium from some 80 warheads. According to the US Department of Energy, its processing may continue until 2017, and the United States will get electricity from the Russian nuclear fuel until 2020.

It had initially been planned that in a ceremony on December 10 the final nuclear fuel containers would be loaded on a truck and sent for further processing to a gaseous diffusion plant in Paducah. However, due to a heavy snowfall in Washington and its surroundings, the official ceremony was cancelled.

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