Friday, November 11, 2005

US to remove 200 tons uranium

US to remove 200 tons uranium

Washington - United States energy secretary Samuel Bodman said on Monday that up to 200 tons of highly enriched uranium would be removed from the US weapons stockpile to prepare the material for use in the navy, space programmes and civilian sectors.

The 200 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) represents the "largest amount ever removed" and is the equivalent of 8 000 nuclear warheads, Bodman said.

He made the announcement while addressing the 2005 Carnegie International Non-proliferation Conference in Washington, marking the 60th anniversary of the first official non-proliferation proposal.

According to the plan, about 160 tons of HEU will be provided to the US Navy, for use in naval ship power propulsion and some 20 tons will be reserved for space and research reactors.

Taking precautions against terrorists

A final 20 tons will be down-blended, or diluted, to low enriched uranium for eventual use in civilian nuclear power reactors and research reactors, he said. Down-blending eliminates the uranium's potential usefulness to terrorists.

"This 20 tons will help extend the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy," he said.

The removal of the HEU from the weapons stockpile will occur in the coming decades, the energy department said.

"The project represents the largest amount of special nuclear material to be removed from the stockpile in the history of the nuclear weapons program," the energy department said.

It said the decision addresses the future use of HEU that becomes available from nuclear weapons dismantlements and from significant reductions in the nuclear weapons stockpile, as directed by President George W Bush in May 2004, it noted.

"The president's decision to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile by nearly half - to the smallest size since the (President Dwight) Eisenhower administration - enables us to dispose of a significant amount of weapons-grade uranium," Bodman said.

"This is material that will never again be a part of a nuclear weapon."


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