Note: This story was updated at 9:15 a.m.
Almost 700 kilograms of highly enriched uranium has been moved from the United Kingdom to the United States, and the material is being securely stored at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge for now, federal officials said.
The National Nuclear Security Administration said this month that the highly enriched uranium, or HEU, will be down-blended later into low enriched uranium for use as nuclear reactor fuel.
“The material was returned to Y-12 for secure storage awaiting future disposition,” the NNSA said in a statement provided Friday by Steven Wyatt of the NNSA Production Office in Oak Ridge.
Wyatt said Y-12 supported the removal effort, which was announced by the NNSA on May 3, through technical oversight and guidance of the processing and packaging of material.
“Planning is still under way, but the majority of the material is expected to be down-blended by commercial facilities,” according to the statement provided by Wyatt on Friday. “After downblending, the material can be reused as research or power reactor fuel.”
Highly enriched uranium can be used in nuclear weapons and naval nuclear reactors.
Y-12 is a production site for the nation’s nuclear weapons complex, and the 811-acre plant specializes in uranium components and processing. Y-12 has the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, but the NNSA did not say whether the highly enriched uranium from the U.K. will be stored in the HEUMF.
In its May 3 press release, the NNSA said the removal of the highly enriched uranium from the United Kingdom to the United States was completed by the NNSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. It was a multi-year effort, the NNSA said.
The material was removed from the Dounreay nuclear site, which is on the coast in northern Scotland. More than a dozen U.S. and U.K. organizations participated in the removal, the NNSA said.
“The successful completion of the complex work to transfer HEU signaled the conclusion of an important part of the program to decommission and clean up Dounreay Site,” said David Peattie, chief executive officer of the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
It’s the largest removal of highly enriched uranium to the United States in the history of DOE/NNSA’s Office of Material Management and Minimization Nuclear Material Removal Program, according to the NNSA.
“U.S.-U.K. nuclear security ties have been resolute for more than 60 years,” said Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, DOE under secretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator. “This joint effort highlights our strong cooperation and mutual nonproliferation goals.”
The NNSA said the removal is part of a worldwide effort to increase nuclear security by reducing HEU inventories. It also is part of a 2014 agreement between DOE/NNSA and the Euratom Supply Agency to reduce HEU while supporting medical isotope production and research reactors in Europe.
The U.K. government said the HEU transfer from Dounreay to the United States was part of its commitment to the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C.
The United Kingdom said the highly enriched uranium that will be down-blended in the United States will be used in civil nuclear reactors for entirely peaceful purposes.
The United States is sending a different form of the material to Europe, where it will be used as research reactor fuel and in the production of medical isotopes, the U.K. said.
You can learn more about DOE/NNSA’s nonproliferation mission here.
You can see the NNSA press release here.
You can see the U.K. government’s press release here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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