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Russian Nuclear Megatons Become U.S. Megawatts
December 16, 2013

Russian Nuclear Megatons Become U.S. Megawatts

13 December 2013

Low enriched uranium arrived in the United States from Russia, bound for the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant near Paducah, Kentucky, shown above, on its journey to be converted into fuel for use in U.S. nuclear power reactors.

The last scheduled delivery of low enriched uranium (LEU) under the landmark 1993 U.S.-Russia highly enriched uranium (HEU) purchase agreement arrived in Baltimore the week of December 10, and on that day the United States and Russia commemorated the expected completion of the agreement.

The two countries also pledged continued collaboration on nuclear nonproliferation, the U.S. Department of Energy announced in a December 10 press release.

The 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement, commonly known as the Megatons to Megawatts Program, celebrated on December 10 the offloading at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland of the final planned shipment of LEU from Russia. The shipment is expected to be the last of the LEU converted from more than 500 metric tons of weapons-origin HEU downblended from roughly 20,000 dismantled Russian nuclear warheads and shipped to the United States to fuel U.S. nuclear reactors, supplying nearly 10 percent of all U.S. electricity over the past 15 years.

“The Megatons to Megawatts Program made a substantial contribution both to the elimination of nuclear weapons material and to nuclear energy generation in the United States,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Nearly every commercial nuclear reactor in the United States received nuclear fuel under the program.

“This agreement serves as an example of what the United States and Russia can achieve when we work together, and we are carrying this success forward into other nonproliferation activities with each other and with our international partners.”

The final shipment also coincides with a new era of U.S.-Russia collaboration in nonproliferation, science, and nuclear research and development under several far-reaching initiatives that will progress further through discussions between the two countries.

On December 10, Secretary Moniz, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman and Russian State Corporation for Nuclear Energy (Rosatom) Director General Sergey Kirienko held talks in Washington. They discussed future U.S.-Russia nuclear energy collaboration, including nuclear research and development, commercial aspects of cooperation, nuclear safety and nonproliferation.

Following the discussions, several collaborative initiatives are being implemented, including the following:

• Memoranda under the June 2013 bilateral Protocol to the Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Program in the Russian Federation were signed, establishing procedures for work to support bilateral cooperation in nuclear and radiological material security, conversion of reactors to use LEU instead of HEU fuel, combating the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radiological material, and other areas.

• Proposed collaborative projects are moving forward under the Government-to-Government Agreement on Cooperation on Nuclear- and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development, which provides the legal framework necessary to expand cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear research laboratories in areas including nuclear technology, nonproliferation, fundamental and applied science, energy and environment.

• Russia and the United States are in the process of extending the Russian-origin Research Reactor Fuel Return program, under which the Department of Energy has worked closely with Rosatom to remove all Russian-origin HEU from nine countries. With the extension of this program, additional Russian-origin HEU can be removed from those countries where it remains.

The HEU Transparency Program of the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration monitored the Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion process to provide confidence that all LEU delivered to the United States under the agreement was derived from Russian HEU of weapons origin. Similarly, Russian monitoring rights verify the peaceful use of the material once it arrives in the United States.

The United States concluded transparency monitoring in Russia at the end of October. U.S. and Russian executive agents managed all commercial aspects and logistics of the uranium deliveries and shipments.

The final four cylinders of LEU left the Port of Baltimore on December 10 for Paducah, Kentucky. From the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the LEU will be sent to U.S. nuclear fuel fabrication facilities, converted into fuel rods and ultimately delivered to commercial customers for use in U.S. nuclear power reactors.

More information on these activities can be found on the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s website. For more information on the U.S.-Russia discussions, see the joint statement.