US-Russia Partnership: Converting Russian Nuclear Weapons into US Nuclear Fuel

A container of highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel being secured for transport at the Institute for Nuclear Physics in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The fuel is being returned to Russia by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced that it has monitored the elimination of more than 475 metric tons (MT) of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU) under a landmark nuclear nonproliferation program, commonly known as Megatons to Megawatts. With today’s 475 MT HEU milestone, deliveries under the U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement of low enriched uranium (LEU) produced from Russian HEU are 95 percent complete, and HEU roughly equivalent to 19,000 nuclear weapons has been permanently eliminated.

“The HEU Purchase Agreement has reached yet another important milestone on the path towards blending down and eliminating 500 metric tons of Russian weapons HEU. The HEU Program has been one of the most successful nonproliferation and material disposition programs in U.S. history and is a success we share with our Russian partners,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington. “The President’s nonproliferation goals have been advanced by the hard work and dedication of both U.S. and Russian personnel under the landmark 1993 agreement.”

Under the agreement, Russia converts HEU from dismantled nuclear weapons into LEU. The resulting LEU is delivered to the U.S., fabricated into nuclear fuel and used in nuclear power plants to generate nearly 10 percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. each year. Nearly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced in the U.S. comes from nuclear fuel derived from Russian nuclear weapons.

NNSA’s HEU Transparency Program monitors the Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion process to ensure that all LEU delivered to the U.S. under the agreement is derived from HEU from Russian weapons. The program implements extensive access and monitoring rights during 24 annual monitoring visits to four Russian HEU processing facilities. At these facilities, U.S. experts measure and observe HEU processing firsthand, analyze Russian HEU-to-LEU processing forms and perform measurements with U.S. monitoring equipment. This information allows the U.S. to confirm that Russian HEU-to-LEU conversion activities fulfill the agreement’s nonproliferation goals.

Since 1995, the HEU Transparency Program has conducted 359 monitoring visits to Russian HEU processing facilities, and since 2000, U.S. experts have monitored the elimination of 30 metric tons of Russian HEU each year—roughly equivalent to about 1,200 nuclear weapons per year. By the end of 2013, NNSA will conclude transparency monitoring of HEU-LEU conversion activities in Russian nuclear facilities after having monitored the elimination of 500 MT of HEU—roughly equivalent to 20,000 nuclear weapons.

The Russian Federation also conducts reciprocal monitoring activities at U.S. facilities to confirm the exclusively peaceful use of all LEU delivered under the agreement.

The United States Enrichment Corporation and Techsnabexport, the executive agents for the 1993 agreement, manage the commercial aspects and logistics of the uranium shipments and transfers.


Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.


Originally published by National Nuclear Security Administration.

Photo by NNSANews.

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