The United States today announced the removal of 128 kilograms (over 280 pounds) of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from two remaining sites in Ukraine. The shipments were completed as part of a joint effort with Ukraine and fulfill the commitments made by Presidents Obama and Yanukovych at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit to remove all of Ukraine’s HEU by the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit.
Implementation of the April 2010 Joint Statement by Presidents Obama and Yanukovych required a total of six different secure operations and unprecedented cooperation among the U.S., Ukraine, Russia and the IAEA to successfully remove a total of 234 kilograms over a two-year period. Originally, there were three sites in Ukraine with different quantities and types of HEU. The first shipment to remove 56 kilograms of spent HEU fuel from the Kiev Institute of Nuclear Research (KINR) took place in May 2010. This was followed by three shipments – all in late December 2010 – to remove 16 kilograms of fresh HEU from the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, 25 kilograms of fresh HEU from Sevastopol University, and 10 kilograms of fresh HEU from the Kiev Institute of Nuclear Research. The HEU was returned to Russia, where it will be downblended into low enriched uranium (LEU). Unlike HEU, LEU cannot be used to make a nuclear weapon.
In exchange, the United States agreed to provide Ukraine with replacement LEU fuel as well as a state-of-the-art Neutron Source Facility (NSF) at the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology. The United States has already shipped replacement LEU to the Kiev Institute for Nuclear Research and the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology in exchange for the HEU that was removed. The United States has also completed the main stages of construction of the NSF and will ensure the NSF is fully operational by 2014, thereby fulfilling commitments to Ukraine. The NSF will be equipped with the most up-to-date technology to operate at the highest safety standards and will provide Ukraine with new research capabilities and the ability to produce over 50 different industrial and medical isotopes for the benefit of the Ukrainian people.
In a speech in Prague in April 2009, President Obama called for an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years. Shipments like these recently completed from Ukraine result in permanent threat reduction because they eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material at civilian sites. Financial support to help implement the removal operations with Ukraine was provided by the United Kingdom as part of a cost-sharing approach.