3 October 2002
6,000 nukes eliminated, agencies report
Washington, D.C. – More than 150 metric tons of Russian weapons-grade uranium – the equivalent of 6,000 nuclear warheads – has been transformed into electricity-producing fuel, used to light and power American homes and businesses, the projects executive agents said Thursday.
Calling it "a significant milestone in the effort to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism," USEC and TENEX, executive agents for the U.S. and Russian governments, provided statistics on their joint effort, which is at the eight-year mark in a planned 20-year "Megatons to Megawatts" program.
Since 1994, USEC and its Russian partner, TENEX have been converting nuclear warheads into electricity. To date, the program has produced enough fuel to power a city the size of Boston for about 230 years, company executives said.
"Each and every day, the Megatons to Megawatts program eliminates more nuclear warhead material. And from this warhead material we derive a valuable resource –clean-burning nuclear fuel, used to light and power our nation from coast to coast," USEC president and CEO William H. Timbers said at a Washington, D.C., press gathering.
The warhead material is converted to nuclear fuel in Russia. USEC said it then purchases the fuel to market to its utility customers. To date, USEC purchases from Russia have totaled more than $2.5 billion, Timbers said. The Russian fuel makes up approximately one-half of USEC's annual supply. The other half is produced domestically by USEC at its facility in Paducah, Ky., he said.
"When this program is completed in 2013, 500 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium – equivalent to 20,000 Russian nuclear warheads – will have been converted into enough fuel to power the entire United States for about two years," the partners reported in a joint statement.
The government-to-government program is being implemented on commercial terms, with no taxpayer funds involved, they said.
Timbers and Vladimir Smirnov, general director of TENEX, credited the electric utilities that use the Megatons to Megawatts fuel for contributing to a safer, cleaner world by helping to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and by operating nuclear power plants.
The program benefits both countries, they said. While the U.S. fulfills a critical homeland security objective and receives a supply of power plant fuel, the Russian Federation receives a steady stream of income that supports improvement of nuclear safeguards and environmental clean-up activities.
Development of the Megatons to Megawatts program began in the early 1990s, when the U.S. government began discussions with Russia on the concept of converting Russian nuclear warheads into fuel for nuclear power plants.
In 1993, the U.S. and Russia signed an agreement for the dilution of 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads into low-enriched uranium fuel to be purchased by a U.S. executive agent. In 1994, USEC and TENEX signed the 20-year commercial implementing contract that would bring Russia $8 billion for its conversion of warheads to nuclear fuel purchased by USEC. The first shipment of Megatons to Megawatts fuel was received by USEC on 23 June 1995.
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