Shipment makes Nigeria the 33rd country plus Taiwan to become free of highly enriched uranium

WASHINGTON – In cooperation with Nigeria, China, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) successfully repatriated more than 1 kilogram of Chinese-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from a research reactor in Nigeria.  

This shipment to China removes the last known HEU from Nigeria, making it the 33rd country plus Taiwan to become HEU free. To date, DOE/NNSA has removed or confirmed the disposition of more than 6,725 kilograms of HEU or plutonium worldwide, helping to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

“The successful removal of this highly enriched uranium is yet another example of the international community working together to reduce inventories of weapons-usable nuclear material,” said DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty. “We applaud Nigeria for its commitment to preventing acts of nuclear terrorism, and we appreciate the strong support of China and the IAEA in executing this important nonproliferation project.”

The Nigerian Research Reactor-1 (NIRR-1) is a miniature neutron source reactor (MNSR) at the Center for Energy Research and Training (CERT) in the Kaduna region of Nigeria. 

“We removed this material because of our commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), our commitment to reduce the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian reactors, and our commitment to the protection of life in the country,” said Dr. Yusuf Aminu Ahmed, CERT Director. “We don't want any material that is attractive to terrorists."

IAEA safeguards inspectors and technical experts from the United States, the Czech Republic, China, and Russia monitored the process of loading the fuel into a specialized spent nuclear fuel transportation cask, which was then safely and securely transported by air cargo plane to China.

This removal follows the successful conversion of the NIRR-1 MNSR from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) in October 2018.

"The MNSR conversion is an important measure to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation and enhance global nuclear security,” said LIU Yongde, Secretary General, China Atomic Energy Authority. “The successful completion of the NIRR-1 conversion is a concrete measure taken by China to implement the commitment made by President XI Jinping with the joint efforts of the international community. Based on the experience gained in the Ghana and Nigeria projects, we are ready for the conversion of MNSRs in other countries."

China and the United States will continue to work through the IAEA to support the conversion of the remaining MNSRs around the world and the return of their spent fuel to China.