Official in the United States, Vietnam, and Russia announced this month that they have removed 11 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, or HEU, from the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute in Dalat, Vietnam.
“With this shipment, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam became the eleventh country from which all HEU has been removed since President Obama’s 2009 announcement in Prague of an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world,” the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration said in a press release. “The U.S. will work with our international partners to remove the remaining HEU from another country by the end of 2013 in support of this global effort and the goals of the Nuclear Security Summits.”
The NNSA and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology announced the removal of the HEU in a joint operation with the Russian Federation.
“Since President Obama laid out his nuclear security vision in Prague in 2009, the United States and its international partners have made remarkable strides in reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism by securing, consolidating, and eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “Today, with the complete removal of all highly enriched uranium from Vietnam, we can say that Vietnam’s decision to remove and secure vulnerable nuclear material demonstrates the international community’s commitment to ensure that terrorists never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
The press release said the “removal was executed in close coordination with the Russian Federation, which has now partnered with the U.S. on similar projects in 14 countries. The HEU from Vietnam was securely transported by truck from the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute to a military airport outside of Ho Chi Minh City and then was flown by a Russian An-124 cargo plane to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium, or LEU, for use in power reactors. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon. This complex operation was the culmination of a multi-year effort by NNSA, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s MOST, Russia’s Federal State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A financial contribution was also provided by the government of Canada.
The press release said this project is part of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which shares a long history of cooperation with Vietnam on nuclear and radiological security issues. This is the second GTRI shipment from Vietnam and marks the complete removal of all HEU from the country. GTRI also worked with the Dalat Nuclear Research Institute to convert its research reactor from HEU to LEU and install physical protection upgrades at facilities storing or using both nuclear and radiological materials.
“In addition to GTRI’s work, NNSA also is engaged with Vietnam on a broad range of nuclear security and nonproliferation activities, including border security and export control cooperation, nondestructive assay measurement training for nuclear material safeguards, additional protocol implementation support, safeguards information management, and emergency response training,” the release said.
GTRI’s mission is to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites worldwide. GTRI works towards achieving its mission by converting research reactors and isotope production facilities from the use of HEU to LEU, removing excess nuclear and radiological materials, and protecting high-priority nuclear and radiological materials from theft. Together, these efforts provide a comprehensive approach to preventing terrorists’ access to nuclear and radiological materials. To date, GTRI has removed more than 3,600 kilograms of HEU and plutonium from more than 40 countries around the world and has removed all HEU from 24 countries.
A fact sheet on NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative is available here.