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All of Southeast Asia Now HEU-Free
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), Indonesian Nuclear Industry, LLC (PT INUKI), the National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), and the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (BAPETEN) of the Republic of Indonesia announced the completion of a collaborative effort to down-blend Indonesia's stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU).
With the completion of this operation, Indonesia becomes the 30th country plus Taiwan to be declared free of HEU (defined as possessing less than 1 kilogram of HEU in-country), joining fellow Southeast Asian countries Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines in working with DOE/NNSA to eliminate all of its weapon-usable nuclear material. With this most recent milestone, the entire region of Southeast Asia is now free of HEU.
“The elimination of all highly enriched uranium from Indonesia permanently reduces the threat that it could be used by a terrorist to make a nuclear weapon," said NNSA Deputy Administrator Anne Harrington. “This nonproliferation achievement is particularly significant as it makes all of Southeast Asia HEU-free. It also highlights NNSA's commitment to finding domestic disposition solutions for proliferation-sensitive nuclear material around the world.”
At the March 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, President Obama and Indonesian Vice President Kalla announced the successful down-blending of all fresh (unirradiated) HEU to LEU and committed to completing the down-blending of the 1.4 kilograms of irradiated HEU by September 2016.
In the months following the Summit, NNSA worked closely with the Indonesian facility in possession of the material—leveraging technical expertise provided by the Y-12 National Security Complex—to down-blend over 500 bottles of irradiated HEU stored in hot cells. The Indonesians mixed the HEU material with depleted uranium to reduce the U-235 content in the solution to below 20%. Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make an improvised nuclear device.
The HEU was residual material from medical isotope production by PT INUKI, a state owned company that used HEU for its production of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) until 2011. Indonesia produces Mo-99 to meet its local and regional needs for diagnostic medical imaging, and is committed to continuing to produce this medical isotope for the region with plans to restart production using LEU in late 2016.
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, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the 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. Visit nnsa.energy.gov for more information.