VIENNA – At the 60th IAEA General Conference, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), in cooperation with Poland, the Russian Federation and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has successfully repatriated 61 kilograms of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Maria Research Reactor located in Otwock-Swierk, Poland.
The shipment removes the last known HEU from Poland, making Poland the 31st country plus Taiwan to become HEU-free, and represents the completion of a ten year operation to remove more than 700 kilograms of HEU from Poland, effectively reducing a major proliferation threat. With the completion of this shipment, wide swaths of Central and Eastern Europe are completely free of HEU.
“The successful removal of this highly enriched uranium from Poland demonstrates the President’s continued commitment to reducing the threat of terrorism through the removal of proliferation-attractive material,” said Secretary Moniz. “The removal and return of HEU is an example of the international community working collectively to improve global security and is an important contribution to the U.S. Department of Energy’s mission to reduce stockpiles of high-risk, vulnerable materials worldwide.”
Ten years of cooperation with Poland culminated in this two-day operation to remove the last remaining HEU from Poland. It was conducted jointly by the United States, Poland, the Russian Federation, and the IAEA under the management of NNSA’s Office of Material Management and Minimization (M3).
“NNSA applauds the strong leadership of Poland for taking measures to secure this material and commends the strong support of the Russian Federation and IAEA for this important international nonproliferation project,” said NNSA Administrator and Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz (Ret.). “This removal demonstrates one of NNSA’s enduring vital nuclear security missions. I want to recognize the commitment and hard work of the NNSA team that worked to coordinate this effort for many years.”
At the Maria Research Reactor, the HEU spent fuel was loaded into seventeen Russian TUK-19 specialized spent nuclear fuel transportation casks. NNSA technical experts and IAEA safeguards inspectors monitored the process of loading the fuel into the casks. The casks were then placed into six International Standards Organization containers and delivered to the Gdansk International Airport where they were airlifted under guard to a secure facility in Russia using an AN-124 cargo airplane. The United States provided full funding and technical support for this operation.
This follows the successful completion of the full conversion of the Maria Research Reactor from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) two years ago using French designed and fabricated LEU fuel assemblies.
Additional NNSA activities completed in Poland include providing technical and financial assistance to upgrade the physical protection system at the Maria Research Reactor and to secure high-activity radiological material at 47 locations.