WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of the Bush administration’s ongoing efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Latvian Ministry of Environment signed an agreement today that will allow collaboration in nonproliferation and threat reduction areas.
Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman and Latvian Minister of Environment Raimonds Vejonis signed the agreement, which will provide for repatriation to Russia of Soviet/Russian-origin nuclear fuel from Latvia’s shutdown research reactors at Salaspils; security enhancement of the reactor site and storage of the nuclear materials at the site; and safe and secure storage of Latvia’s nuclear materials, including improved methods of protection, control, and accountability of nuclear materials to reduce the risk of theft or possible diversion of nuclear materials stored at the premises.
“Reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism is a priority for President Bush and my department, and this agreement with Latvia is another important step in our effort to keep nuclear weapons material out of the hands of terrorists,” Secretary Bodman said. “We applaud the Latvian government for its ongoing work to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation, and we look forward to our new partnership.”
The Salaspils research reactor was permanently shut down in 1998 and is being prepared for decommissioning. The agreement signed today will allow DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to remove the Soviet- and Russian-origin nuclear fuel containing highly enriched uranium (HEU) now stored at the facility.
The work is a component of NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and an essential part of the president’s efforts to end the use of HEU in research reactors worldwide. To date, Russia has accepted approximately 105 kilograms of fresh Russian-origin HEU from six countries under GTRI’s Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program. The most recent shipment repatriated six kilograms of fresh HEU from the Czech Republic in December 2004.
The goal of GTRI, announced by the administration on May 26, 2004, in Vienna, Austria, is to identify, secure, remove, or facilitate the disposition of vulnerable nuclear and radioactive materials and equipment around the world that pose a threat to the international community as quickly and expeditiously as possible. International partners, such as the government of Latvia, are key participants in this new initiative.
Media contact: Anne Womack Kolton, 202/586-4940