U.S. partners with Kazakhstan to remove all of its highly enriched uranium
“This final removal will make INP HEU-free, ensuring that a bad actor can never acquire material from the site for a nuclear weapon,” said Dave Huizenga, NNSA’s acting deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.
“This nonproliferation achievement is yet another example of Kazakhstan’s ongoing commitment to nuclear security.”
NNSA has helped Kazakhstan remove or down-blend more than 200 kilograms of HEU from the INP, enough for more than eight nuclear weapons.
The joint operation to remove the Russian-origin HEU spent fuel was conducted as part of DOE/NNSA’s nonproliferation and HEU minimization efforts.
Beginning in 1996, NNSA began working with the INP to better secure and account for nuclear material on site, and to enhance their guard and response force capabilities.
With security upgrades completed or underway, NNSA began work to convert the INP’s reactor and critical assembly from HEU to less proliferation-attractive low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.
To convert the INP’s VVR-K reactor, the joint NNSA/INP team developed a new, more compact LEU fuel assembly which also increased the reactor’s performance capability compared to the HEU fuel.
The successful conversion of VVR-K in 2016 facilitated this final removal of HEU, making the facility HEU-free.
DOE/NNSA will continue to cooperate with INP at the recently opened Nuclear Security Training Center.
This INP facility will serve as the focal point for nuclear security and nonproliferation training efforts in Kazakhstan and Central Asia. ■