U.S. removes HEU from Japan

May 26, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
University of Tokyo technical experts practice procedures for HEU packaging at the Yayoi Research Reactor, with help from Savannah River personnel. (Photo: University of Tokyo)

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan have announced the successful removal of more than 30 kilograms of high-enriched uranium from three Japanese sites to the United States. The news came in a May 23 statement from the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

The joint effort took four years to accomplish and was completed in March. All HEU was removed from the University of Tokyo’s Yayoi Research Reactor, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Deuterium Critical Assembly, and JAEA’s Japan Research Reactor-4.

The removal fulfills a commitment first announced at a 2018 U.S.–Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation meeting in Tokyo.

Cooperation: The NNSA and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology worked together on the removal as part of their mutual nonproliferation goal of reducing HEU around the world. The shipment was undertaken in cooperation with the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Transport Solutions and Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

The HEU was transported to the DOE’s Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C., and the NNSA’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn. It will be downblended to low-enriched uranium and/or dispositioned, permanently reducing the risk that it could be used to produce an improvised nuclear device.

“This HEU removal is the result of years of close cooperation and hard work—made all the more challenging by the pandemic and travel restrictions,” said Corey Hinderstein, NNSA deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation. “It speaks to the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan. Permanently eliminating nuclear material that could be used in a weapon is just one of the ways NNSA and its international partners help make the world a safer place every day.”

Removals to date: The NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Material Removal works with partner countries and international institutions around the world to identify excess nuclear material and implement permanent solutions to consolidate, remove, and dispose of it. To date, the office has removed or confirmed the disposition of nearly 7,270 kilograms of weapons-usable nuclear material—enough material for approximately 325 nuclear weapons, according to the NNSA.

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