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NNSA Announces Equivalent of More Than 15,000 Nuclear Weapons of Russian HEU Eliminated
September 23, 2009

National Nuclear Security Administration
U.S. Department of Energy

For Immediate Release
September 23, 2009

Milestone brings successful nonproliferation program into its final stretch

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 375 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) – the equivalent of more than 15,000 nuclear weapons – under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program. The 1993 U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement, which will convert 500 MT of HEU from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons into peaceful use by 2013, is now 75 percent complete.

“The continued success of this important bilateral agreement demonstrates the enduring U.S.-Russian commitment to the safe and irreversible elimination of excess fissile materials, as recently reaffirmed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev in Moscow,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “This milestone puts us one step closer to accomplishing the President’s goal of securing or eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials worldwide.”

Under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s definition of a Significant Quantity of nuclear material, 375 metric tons of HEU is equivalent to more than 15,000 nuclear weapons.

The U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement requires Russia to blend down HEU into low enriched uranium (LEU) for peaceful purposes in the United States. NNSA’s HEU Transparency Program ensures that the material is derived from weapons, processed, and converted to a nonweapons-useable form for delivery and use in U.S. commercial reactors. The resulting LEU is used to generate about 10 percent of all electrical power in the United States today.

The HEU Transparency Program implements extensive access and monitoring rights during 24 Special Monitoring Visits per year to four Russian uranium-processing facilities. U.S. experts measure and observe HEU processing firsthand at these facilities, and this information provides the basis for an overall assessment of Russian HEU conversion and downblending activities subject to the Agreement.

To date, the Program has conducted 270 Special Monitoring Visits to monitor Russian uranium-processing, with U.S. experts monitoring the elimination of 30 metric tons of HEU – the equivalent of 1,200 nuclear weapons – each year. The Russian Federation also conducts reciprocal monitoring activities at U.S. facilities to ensure peaceful use. By the Agreement’s completion in 2013, NNSA will have monitored the elimination of the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear weapons.

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Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science in the nation’s national security enterprise. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability, and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; reduces the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Visit http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/ for more information.