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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), working in collaboration with the Government of Switzerland, announced today that approximately 2.2 kilogram of U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) has been returned from the University of Basel in Switzerland to the United States. The successful transport of this HEU, managed by NNSA’s Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN), makes Switzerland the 27th country plus Taiwan to remove all of its HEU. This effort highlights the strong role Switzerland has played as a leader in nuclear nonproliferation.
“We are delighted to share this important milestone with the Swiss Government and the Paul Sherrer Institute, and want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important partnership that made this possible,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington. “Our collaboration advances global efforts to secure, consolidate, and minimize the use of highly enriched uranium so that it does not fall into the hands of terrorists.”
The HEU is from AGN-211-P research reactor, which commenced operation in 1961 using U.S.-origin HEU Material Test Reactor (MTR)-type fuel. The reactor was operated for decades by the University of Basel for education and research purposes, but the decision was made to decommission the reactor and repatriate the HEU fuel to the United States.
The University of Basel, in cooperation with the Swiss Government, the Paul Sherrer Institute (PSI), and NNSA’s DNN, packaged and transported the 13 irradiated HEU fuel elements in a spent nuclear fuel cask that was then shipped to Charleston, South Carolina, in a specially outfitted, dedicated vessel. The HEU is safely and securely stored at the Savannah River Site, pending final disposition, which often involves blending to low enrichment and distribution to the Tennessee Valley Authority for generation of electricity.
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 United States and abroad.
EDITORIAL NOTE: This press release has been updated. A previous version did not include the following message: "The HEU is safely and securely stored at the Savannah River Site, pending final disposition, which often involves blending to low enrichment and distribution to the Tennessee Valley Authority for generation of electricity."