WASHINGTON, D.C.—Russia has converted 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium—the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear warheads—and the resulting low enriched uranium, or LEU, has been delivered to the United States, fabricated into nuclear fuel, and used in nuclear power plants to generate nearly 10 percent of all U.S. electricity for the past 15 years, federal officials said.
That’s roughly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced domestically during that period, a U.S. Department of Energy press release said.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced the final LEU shipment on Thursday.
The LEU was derived from Russian weapons-origin highly enriched uranium, or HEU, under the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement, commonly known as the Megatons to Megawatts Program, the press release said.
It said deliveries of LEU produced from Russian-origin HEU under the landmark nuclear nonproliferation program are complete, and 9,630 type-30B cylinders of LEU from Russian HEU will have been delivered. In addition, the department’s 20-year effort to monitor the HEU-to-LEU conversion process in Russia is in the final stages.
“For two decades, one in ten light bulbs in America has been powered by nuclear material from Russian nuclear warheads,” Moniz said. “The 1993 United States-Russian Federation Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement has proven to be one of the most successful nuclear nonproliferation partnerships ever undertaken. The completion of this ‘swords to ploughshares’ program represents a major victory both for the United States and Russia.”
On Nov. 14, senior U.S. and Russian government officials, along with senior representatives from the United States Enrichment Corp. and Techsnabexport, or Tenex, the U.S. and Russian executive agents for the 1993 agreement, observed the departure of the final shipment of LEU from the port of St. Petersburg, Russia.
A final milestone event is planned for Dec. 10 when U.S. and Russian government officials and industry partners will observe the final delivery of Russian LEU depart the Port of Baltimore bound for USEC’s Paducah facility in Paducah, Ky. The LEU will remain subject to peaceful use requirements throughout its lifecycle, the press release said.
It said the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration’s HEU Transparency Program 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. The United States concluded transparency monitoring in Russia at the end of October. As executive agents, USEC and Tenex managed all commercial aspects and logistics of the uranium deliveries and shipments.