Russia Receives Enriched Uranium from Germany
December 19, 2006
Russian experts t removed a large quantity of highly enriched uranium from a Soviet-era reactor in Germany and flew it to Russia for processing.
Protesters forced a convoy carrying the material to stop briefly despite efforts to keep the route secret and a heavy police presence.
Approximately 717 pounds of enriched uranium, enough for several bombs, was heading to a processing center in Podolsk, Russia from the former Rossendorf research reactor near Dresden, where the material was stored, U.S. and German officials said. The reactor was shut down in the early 1990's.
Moscow's atomic energy agency Rosatom said in a statement on its website that the shipment had arrived in Russia.
Roughly two-thirds of the uranium is highly enriched. After arriving in Russia it will be mixed with low-grade uranium to make reactor fuel that no longer represents a proliferation risk.
"This action is an important step towards promoting a global cleanout of HEU (highly enriched uranium) in the civilian sector," said Arnaud Atger, a senior official at the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.
"The security of HEU is of particular concern due to the technical feasibility of constructing a crude nuclear explosive device from HEU," he told reporters.
Atger, along with colleagues from the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), assisted the Russians.
The U.S. official charged with helping Russia and the IAEA recover enriched uranium around the world, NNSA Assistant Deputy Administrator Andrew Bieniawski, also welcomed the transport as a blow to any terrorist plans to acquire atomic weapons.
Bieniawski said Washington had spent some $25 million to upgrade the Podolsk plant processing the HEU to help make it "one of the most secure facilities in Russia and the world."
The U.S-Russian nuclear material recovery program is two years old and is called the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.