(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A team of experts from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), China, and Ghana completed the conversion of Ghana’s GHARR-1 Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel on July 13.

These reactor conversions allow important research to continue while enabling the removal and disposal of HEU fuel, eliminating the risk that this weapons-usable material could be stolen or diverted for malevolent use. 

“NNSA is extremely pleased to be supporting this cooperative international effort to convert MNSRs. We applaud the successful conversion of the MNSR at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and will apply what we’ve learned to future reactor conversions,” said David Huizenga, NNSA’s acting deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.

This successful conversion was the culmination of over a decade of complex scientific and political cooperation among the three countries and the IAEA, and it furthers NNSA’s ongoing global effort to minimize the use of HEU in civilian applications.

Over the span of the project, NNSA and partner country technical experts working under the auspices of the IAEA performed detailed analyses to confirm the feasibility and safety of operating Ghana’s MNSR with LEU fuel. The team fabricated and tested the new LEU fuel to ensure it would meet the reactor’s needs and worked together to overcome complex logistical hurdles to ship the LEU fuel from China to Ghana. 

Ghana’s Chinese-origin MNSR is the first reactor of this type to be converted outside of China, establishing this cooperative effort as a model for similar cooperation on future MNSR conversions. NNSA is cooperating with Nigeria, China, and the IAEA to convert Nigeria’s MNSR in 2018.

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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.