Russia Sends U.S. Last Shipment of Downblended Nuclear Material

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Nov. 15, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

Rus­sia on Thursday sent the United States the fi­nal ship­ment of atom­ic-en­ergy ma­ter­i­al pro­duced from down­blen­ded war­head-grade urani­um, sig­nal­ing the end of a 20-year bi­lat­er­al non­pro­lif­er­a­tion pro­gram, the New York Times re­por­ted.

Un­der the Mega­tons to Mega­watts pro­gram, Rus­sia con­ver­ted fis­sile ma­ter­i­al from ap­prox­im­ately 20,000 So­viet-era war­heads in­to ci­vil­ian-grade urani­um that was then used to fuel U.S. atom­ic power plants, gen­er­at­ing roughly 10 per­cent of all of the elec­tri­city pro­duced in the United States.

Seni­or Rus­si­an and U.S. of­fi­cials gathered in St. Peters­burg on Thursday to see off the fi­nal ship­ment, which con­tained enough urani­um to fuel ap­prox­im­ately 80 nuc­le­ar weapons.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions on the last ship­ment! Stay safe!,” wrote act­ing U.S. Un­der­sec­ret­ary of State for Arms Con­trol and In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Rose Got­te­moeller on one of the cyl­in­ders filled with low-en­riched urani­um.

“Our fo­cus glob­ally is to min­im­ize high-en­riched urani­um wherever it is found,” Got­te­moeller told the Times.

Rus­sia and the United States con­tin­ue to hold vast amounts of war­head-grade urani­um, which has an en­rich­ment level of around 90 per­cent, which is leftover from the Cold War. The one­time ant­ag­on­ists col­lect­ively are es­tim­ated to pos­sess in ex­cess of 700 tons of highly en­riched urani­um, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tion­al Pan­el on Fis­sile Ma­ter­i­als. Wash­ing­ton has down­blen­ded 143 tons of former HEU ma­ter­i­al and is com­mit­ted to con­vert­ing an ad­di­tion­al 43 tons. Though Mo­scow has blen­ded down more ma­ter­i­al than Wash­ing­ton, it is be­lieved to still pos­sess a much great­er quant­ity of sur­plus bomb-ready urani­um.

“For two dec­ades, one in 10 light bulbs in Amer­ica has been powered by nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al from Rus­si­an nuc­le­ar war­heads,” U.S. En­ergy Sec­ret­ary Ern­est Mon­iz said of the Mega­tons to Mega­watts ini­ti­at­ive, ac­cord­ing to a Re­u­ters re­port.

Rus­sia earned roughly $17 bil­lion over the two-dec­ade run of the pro­gram, ac­cord­ing to Mon­iz.

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