Plutonium transported from IAEA laboratory to Oak Ridge

March 30, 2022, 9:46AMNuclear News

Truck loaded with nuclear cargo before departing the IAEA’s Nuclear Material Laboratory. (Photo: NNSA).

Plutonium from an International Atomic Energy Agency laboratory in Austria has been removed to the United States, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration announced on March 29.

The plutonium was shipped from the IAEA’s Nuclear Material Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, where it will be used in sealed sources for nonproliferation research and development.

Safeguards: The plutonium included in the shipment represents approximately 15 years of accumulated residue from inspection samples collected in support of the IAEA’s safeguards mission, according to the NNSA. Technical experts from ORNL and Savannah River National Laboratory worked with a team from the IAEA for several years to complete all activities required for the safe and secure transportation of the material to Oak Ridge.

The NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Material Removal works with partner nations and international institutions around the world to identify excess nuclear material and find permanent solutions to consolidate, remove, or dispose of these inventories. To date, the office has removed or confirmed the disposal of nearly 7,270 kilograms of weapons-usable nuclear material, permanently reducing the risk of a terrorist or other malevolent actor acquiring high-enriched uranium or plutonium for use in an improvised nuclear device, the NNSA said.

They said it: “The IAEA is extremely grateful to the NNSA for supporting this removal,” said Steve Balsley, director of the IAEA’s Office of Safeguards Analytical Services. “The success of the project was made possible through methodical planning, in-depth exchanges that laid the technical groundwork, and the productivity of the motivated team of NNSA and IAEA experts.”

Corey Hinderstein, the NNSA’s deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, added, “Our close coordination during the pandemic demonstrates our enduring commitment to support the IAEA in its nuclear safeguards and security missions. We are proud of our laboratory experts who were able to identify a solution to repurpose the material in support of nonproliferation and nuclear detection efforts.”

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