Russia takes back uranium fuel from Polish research reactor

Publish date: August 16, 2006

Highly-enriched Russian-produced uranium has been successfully removed from Poland to Russia. As an ITAR-TASS correspondent was told by Rosatom (Federal Atomic Energy Agency), "in order to reduce the global nuclear threat, Russia and the USA have repatriated highly-enriched uranium from the Polish research reactor Maria".

Rosatom explained that "the repatriation to the Russian Federation of 40 kg of fresh (nonirradiated) highly-enriched fuel (enriched to 20-80 per cent uranium-235) from the research reactor in the town of Swierk was carried out on 9 August". "The repatriation of the Russian-produced fuel from Poland was carried out with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the framework of the implementation of the Bratislava accords between the Russian and US presidents," Rosatom said.

Rosatom noted that "such operations have been conducted for around two years now in accordance with an agreement between the governments of the two countries providing for the removal of highly-enriched nuclear fuel from research reactors built as part of Soviet projects in former socialist countries, Soviet republics and in the Middle East". A total of 228 kg of highly-enriched uranium has already been repatriated to Russia from nine countries, including Libya, Uzbekistan and Latvia, Rosatom explained, noting at the same time that "13 of the 17 countries where research reactors were built in the Soviet period have confirmed their agreement to take part in the programme". The fuel returned to Russia is processed and used as fuel for atomic power stations and is partly returned to research reactors, but in the form of low-enriched fuel – up to 20 percent. Some of the research reactors from which the nuclear fuel is being removed will be shut down.

Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, irradiated nuclear assemblies were only removed from a research reactor in Iraq. Before the Russian-American agreement, signed in 2004, came into force, there were around 30,000 irradiated assemblies at such reactors, around 14,000 of them with highly-enriched uranium. Rosatom also noted that "under this agreement the American side is also carrying out the removal of highly-enriched fuel from research reactors built by the USA in various countries".

The Russian company Tekhsnabeksport intends before 2012-2013 to complete the removal to Russia of highly-enriched spent nuclear fuel from 20 research reactors built by the USSR in 17 countries.