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Norway United States announce agreement to work toward downblending Norway’s remaining HEU

NNSA to lend technical expertise in collaborative study with Norwegian partners

WASHINGTON – The United States and Norway announced a joint effort to assess a technical solution for downblending Norway’s remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) with the mutual goal of making the Nordic nation HEU-free.

The Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and State Secretary of Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to continue building on the work done to date, with the eventual goal of eliminating the last remaining HEU in Norway, which poses a challenge due to the thorium content of the materials.

“Norway has been a strong partner in this effort from the start,” said Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, NNSA Administrator and Under Secretary for Nuclear Security at the U.S. Department of Energy. “In 2019 we began discussions with our Norwegian counterparts about a promising approach which might help them to become HEU-free.”

As a global advocate for HEU minimization, Norway has long played an important role convening international symposia and meetings to enable the exchange of ideas and best practices relating to the elimination of HEU. During the 2019 meeting in Oslo, which was focused on HEU-thorium mixtures, NNSA and its Norwegian partners began discussing a potential method to address Norway’s inventories of these materials. Since then, U.S. and Norwegian technical experts have worked together to mature this concept, which would involve downblending the HEU in Norway, ensuring that terrorists or other bad actors would never be able to use this material for a nuclear device.

“With continued cooperation, Norway, and other countries with HEU, can join those which are HEU-free so that this material can never be misused,” said State Secretary Audun Halvorsen.

A U.S.-Norwegian team is now studying Norway’s existing infrastructure; inventory data; and the safety, security, and safeguards implications of the proposed technical solution, among other topics.

In a joint statement, both countries recognized that challenges remain ahead, some of which remain unknown at this time, but highlighted mutual confidence in our two countries’ ability to meet and overcome them, ultimately making Norway HEU-free and advancing the common goal of global nuclear security.

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The joint statement

Norway – U.S. Joint Statement on the Margins of the 64th International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference regarding the Minimization of Highly Enriched Uranium in Norway

The United States and Norway announce joint efforts to study a technical solution to enable the downblending of Norway’s remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU).

Norway and the United States have long shared a commitment to HEU minimization.  The United States applauds Norway’s significant contributions to this effort, hosting HEU Minimization Symposia in 2006, 2012, and 2018.  Building on these events, and our shared commitment through INFCIRC/912 to continue efforts to minimize remaining stocks of excess HEU, Norway is taking the next step toward joining the majority of International Atomic Energy Agency Member States that are HEU-free.

In 2019, seeking to spur innovation and enable the exchange of best practices, Norway, in cooperation with the United States, hosted an international technical meeting in Oslo on the minimization of stocks of HEU in uranium-thorium mixtures.  This involved partners from eight countries facing a similar issue and was the first multilateral meeting in which partners shared information on their stocks of HEU in uranium-thorium mixtures.  This was also the starting point for discussions on a potential technical solution to make Norway HEU-free, which up to that point had been precluded by barriers associated with the thorium content of the inventory.  Since that time, U.S. and Norwegian technical experts have coordinated to mature this concept, which would involve the downblending of the HEU in Norway.

We are now studying Norway’s existing infrastructure; inventory characterization data; and the safety, security, and safeguards implications of the proposed technical solution.

The United States and Norway recognize that many challenges remain ahead, some of which are unknown at this stage.  We trust that together we will be able to meet and overcome these obstacles and will ultimately succeed in making Norway HEU-free, advancing the common goal of global nuclear security.