6 October 2005 As part of the ongoing battle to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency has assisted the return from the Czech Republic to Russia of 14 kilogrammes of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that could be used to assemble a nuclear weapon.
The mission, completed last week, was a joint effort between the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United States, the Czech Republic and Russia, as part of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which seeks to identify, secure and recover high-risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials around the world.
The nuclear fuel was originally supplied to the Czech Republic by the former Soviet Union for use in a Russian designed multi-purpose research reactor operated at the Czech Technical University for education and training of physics and engineering students.
IAEA safeguard inspectors monitored and verified the packing of the HEU for transport from the reactor and arranged the shipment and all related logistics as part of its technical cooperation activities. The fuel removal was funded by the US Department of Energy.
The fuel was airlifted under guard from an airport near Prague, the Czech capital, to a secure facility in Dimitrovgrad, Russia, where it will be down-blended to low enriched uranium that cannot be used for an atomic bomb.
Over the past two years the IAEA has supported similar operations in other countries including Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan and Latvia.
More than 100 research reactors around the world still run on weapons-grade HEU and the Agency is working with Member States to convert their research reactors from HEU to using proliferation-resistant lower enriched fuel.