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DOE to Remove 200 Metric Tons of Highly Enriched Uranium from U.S. Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

November 7, 2005 - 12:38pm

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Will Be Redirected to Naval Reactors, Down-blended or Used for Space Programs

WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman today announced that the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) will remove up to 200 metric tons (MT) of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU), in the coming decades, from further use as fissile material in U.S. nuclear weapons and prepare this material for other uses.  Secretary Bodman made this announcement while addressing the 2005 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference in Washington, DC.

The decision addresses future use of HEU that becomes available from nuclear weapons dismantlements and from significant reductions in the nuclear weapons stockpile as directed by President Bush in May 2004.  The project represents the largest amount of special nuclear material to be removed from the stockpile in the history of the nuclear weapons program.

"The President's decision to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile by nearly half - to the smallest size since the Eisenhower administration - enables us to dispose of a significant amount of weapons-grade uranium," Secretary Bodman said.  "This is material that will never again be a part of a nuclear weapon."

DOE will dispose of the additional HEU the following ways:

  • About 160 MT will be provided for use in naval ship power propulsion, postponing the need for construction of a new uranium high-enrichment facility for at least 50 years.
  • About 20 MT will be down-blended to low enriched uranium (LEU) for eventual use in civilian nuclear power reactors, research reactors or related research.  Down-blending this material will eliminate its potential usefulness to terrorists.
  • Approximately 20 MT will be reserved for space and research reactors that currently use HEU, pending development of fuels that would enable the conversion to LEU fuel cores.

HEU is stored at NNSA's Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, TN.  Bodman noted that DOE is expediting construction of a facility that will permit the consolidation of all HEU at Y-12 in a modern, highly secure building.  Although DOE examined options to down-blend additional material to improve its security, it concluded that this new facility would be available before down-blending could be accomplished.  Early down-blending, therefore, would add costs without improving security.

Media contact(s):

Craig Stevens, 202/586-4940
Anson Franklin (NNSA), 202/586-8343

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