National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA partners with Kazakhstan Research Institute to Remove All of its Highly Enriched Uranium

September 19, 2017

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Joint commitment to nonproliferation since 1996 has sparked deeper relationship with Institute for Nuclear Physics and enhances nuclear security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), in partnership with the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) in Almaty, Kazakhstan, repatriated the last remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the institute’s VVR-K reactor.

“This final removal will make INP HEU-free, ensuring that a bad actor can never acquire material from the site for a nuclear weapon,” said Dave Huizenga, NNSA’s acting deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. “This nonproliferation achievement is yet another example of Kazakhstan’s ongoing commitment to nuclear security.”

NNSA has helped Kazakhstan remove or down-blend more than 200 kilograms of HEU from the INP, enough for more than eight nuclear weapons. The joint operation to remove the Russian-origin HEU spent fuel was conducted as part of DOE/NNSA’s nonproliferation and HEU minimization efforts.

Beginning in 1996, NNSA began working with the INP to better secure and account for nuclear material on site, and to enhance their guard and response force capabilities. With security upgrades completed or underway, NNSA began work to convert the INP’s reactor and critical assembly from HEU to less proliferation-attractive low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel. To convert the INP’s VVR-K reactor, the joint NNSA/INP team developed a new, more compact LEU fuel assembly which also increased the reactor’s performance capability compared to the HEU fuel. The successful conversion of VVR-K in 2016 facilitated this final removal of HEU, making the facility HEU-free.

DOE/NNSA will continue to cooperate with INP at the recently opened Nuclear Security Training Center. This INP facility will serve as the focal point for nuclear security and nonproliferation training efforts in Kazakhstan and Central Asia.

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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.

NNSA and the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kazakhstan collaborate to remove all HEU from the institute’s VVR-K reactor. Partners collaborate with NNSA on many of the complex activities involved to make this a success.