Note: This story was updated at 6:23 a.m. Nov. 6.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Department of Energy announced Monday that all remaining highly enriched uranium has been removed from Hungary.
There was enough material removed in the multi-year international effort to fuel nine nuclear weapons, DOE said in a press release.
The removal of the highly enriched uranium, or HEU, was coordinated between Hungary, the United States, the Russian Federation, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA.
Hungary is the 12th country to completely eliminate HEU since President Barack Obama announced an international effort in 2009 to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world, the release said.
“The removal of Hungary’s remaining HEU inventory shows the overwhelming response of the international community to President Obama’s call to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “We know that in the wrong hands, just small amounts of these materials could be used to create a weapon of mass destruction. This operation in Hungary and our ongoing partnerships with countries around the world help to ensure that terrorists never obtain a nuclear weapon.”
DOE said the final 49.2 kilograms of remaining HEU in Hungary were removed through a series of three secure air shipments during the past six weeks and transported to Russia. Previously, the four participants returned 190 kilograms of HEU from Hungary to Russia via three shipments: in 2008, 2009, and 2012. The material will be transported to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium, or LEU, for use in nuclear power reactors.
The other eleven countries and locations that have completely removed HEU under this effort are Austria, Chile, Czech Republic, Libya, Mexico, Romania, Serbia, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam. To date, DOE has removed or dispositioned more than 5,000 kilograms of HEU and plutonium from more than 40 countries around the world and has removed all HEU from 25 countries, the press release said. A fact sheet on the department’s efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism is available here.
The HEU in Hungary was originally procured from Russia for use in scientific applications in the Budapest Research Reactor at Hungary’s Atomic Energy Research Institute. In 2009, NNSA and Hungarian scientists successfully converted the reactor from HEU to LEU use, allowing for the elimination of Hungary’s entire HEU inventory. The Budapest Research Reactor has since continued its robust scientific activities without the need for these dangerous materials.
Along with removal and reactor conversion activities, the Department of Energy has worked with Hungary to install physical protection upgrades at facilities storing or using nuclear and radiological materials. The Department is also engaged with Hungary on a broad range of nuclear security and nonproliferation activities, the release said. These include border security and export control cooperation, safeguards information management, and emergency response training.
The DOE removal work was conducted by the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is a separate agency within DOE.
For more photos, see this NNSA News Web page on Flickr.