The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge has helped the National Nuclear Security Administration and other agencies eliminate weapons-grade nuclear material from Indonesia, a press release said.
The material was eliminated by “down-blending” highly enriched uranium, or HEU, to low enriched uranium, or LEU. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make an improvised nuclear device, a press release said.
The work to eliminate the HEU from Indonesia was done through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, or DOE/NNSA; Indonesian Nuclear Industry LLC, or PT INUKI; the National Nuclear Energy Agency, or BATAN; and the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency, or BAPETEN, of the Republic of Indonesia.
Indonesia is the 30th country plus Taiwan to be declared free of HEU. That’s defined as possessing less than one kilogram of HEU in a country. Indonesia joins fellow Southeast Asian countries Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines in working with DOE/NNSA to eliminate all of its weapon-usable nuclear material, an NNSA press release said.
“With this most recent milestone, the entire region of Southeast Asia is now free of HEU,” the press release said.
“The elimination of all highly enriched uranium from Indonesia permanently reduces the threat that it could be used by a terrorist to make a nuclear weapon,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington.
“This nonproliferation achievement is particularly significant as it makes all of Southeast Asia HEU-free. It also highlights NNSA’s commitment to finding domestic disposition solutions for proliferation-sensitive nuclear material around the world,” Harrington said.
At the March 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced the successful down-blending of all fresh (unirradiated) HEU to LEU and committed to completing the down-blending of the 1.4 kilograms of irradiated HEU by September 2016.
In the months following the Summit, NNSA worked closely with the Indonesian facility in possession of the material—with help from technical expertise provided by Y-12—to down-blend more than 500 bottles of irradiated HEU stored in hot cells. The Indonesians mixed the HEU material with depleted uranium to reduce the U-235 content in the solution to below 20 percent, the press release said.
The HEU was residual material from medical isotope production by PT INUKI, a state owned company that used HEU for its production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) until 2011. Indonesia produces Mo-99 to meet its local and regional needs for diagnostic medical imaging, and the country is committed to continuing to produce this medical isotope for the region with plans to restart production using LEU in late 2016, the press release said.
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