U.S. and Norwegian teams are working together on an innovative plan to make Norway HEU-free
WASHINGTON – Jill Hruby, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), wrapped up her visit to Nordic countries last month with a trip to Norway. In addition to discussing mutual concerns with a key ally, she traveled to Kjeller, the site of an innovative joint U.S.-Norwegian nonproliferation effort.
Since we jointly agreed to do this project, the teams have made real progress on helping Norway to become HEU-free. This project is a high priority for NNSA, and it was impressive to see how far they have come.
A team composed of members from the Institute for Energy Technology’s (IFE) Kjeller and Halden sites, Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning (NND), NNSA, and Savannah River National Laboratory are working together on a project to eliminate all of Norway’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) by downblending it to low-enriched uranium.
“Since we jointly agreed to do this project, the teams have made real progress on helping Norway to become HEU-free,” Hruby said. “This project is a high priority for NNSA, and it was impressive to see how far they have come.”
During downblending, HEU is thoroughly mixed with depleted or natural uranium to reduce the uranium-235 concentration below 20%. The resulting low-enriched uranium cannot be used to make an improvised nuclear device, achieving permanent threat reduction. The challenge has been that much of Norway’s remaining HEU is mixed with thorium, making other disposition techniques more challenging.
A key tool in the joint HEU downblending project is the Department of Energy’s new Mobile Melt-Consolidate system, which can treat a wide variety of HEU-bearing materials safely and reliably, including those that are challenging to dispose of by more traditional means. Building on more than two decades of materials science, engineering, and research & development, the system will be brought to the location of the material, eliminating the most vulnerable stage in the nuclear materials’ lifecycle: transit.
When downblending begins next year, Norway will become the 49th country, plus Taiwan, with which NNSA has worked to eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material. When the project concludes in a few years, Norway will be considered HEU-free.
Hruby met with State Secretary Anne Marit Bjørnflaten and her colleagues from the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Fisheries, as well as nonproliferation officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also discussed joint efforts to counter nuclear smuggling and enhance radiological security, the Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership, and International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification.