WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Bush administration’s aggressive effort to reduce the amount of weapons-grade nuclear material worldwide, Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman announced today that the Department of Energy (DOE) has begun to convert research reactors from using highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to low-enriched uranium fuel (LEU) at the University of Florida and Texas A&M University.
This effort, by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology, are the latest steps under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors program. As part of this program, NNSA is minimizing the use of HEU in civilian nuclear programs by converting research reactors and radioisotope production processes to the use of LEU fuel and targets. HEU is weapons-grade nuclear material that can be used to make a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb.
“The Department of Energy is committed to reducing the threat posed by the availability of weapons-grade nuclear material here at home and around the world,” said Secretary Bodman. “These research reactors are secure and used for peaceful purposes, but by converting them to use low-enriched uranium, we are taking a significant step forward to ensure that weapons-usable nuclear material does not fall into the wrong hands.”
The Global Threat Reduction Initiative, announced in May 2004, aims to identify, secure, remove, and/or facilitate the disposition of high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and other radiological materials and equipment that pose a threat to the international community.
DOE has targeted 25 research reactors in the United States for conversion, and of those 25, 11 have already been converted to the use of LEU fuel. The United States has converted more reactors than any other single country, and this latest initiative represents an important acceleration in DOE’s effort to convert the remaining reactors. The planned completion date for the conversions of the University of Florida and Texas A&M University reactors is in late 2006. DOE’s goal is to complete all remaining conversions by 2014.
Mike Waldron, 202/586-4940
Bryan Wilkes/NNSA, 202/586-7371