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Security of Research Reactors

Several IAEA programmes are helping to convert research reactors from HEU fuel to LEU fuel, and assisting with the repatriation of spent fuel to the country of origin.

The US Foreign Research Reactor (FRR) Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) Acceptance Programme, is a longstanding initiative that has, to the end of 2003, completed 27 shipments safely and successfully. Twenty-seven countries have participated so far, returning a total of 5,915 spent nuclear fuel elements to the United States. The FRRSNF acceptance programme was supported by the IAEA from its inception.

The Agency is also participating in the Tripartite Initiative (IAEA, Russian Federation, US) to repatriate fuel, originally enriched in the former Soviet Union, to the Russian Federation. Successful shipments of fresh HEU fuel to the Russian Federation have been conducted from Vinša (Serbia and Montenegro), Pitesti (Romania), Sofia (Bulgaria) and Tajoura (Libya), all with active

involvement of the IAEA. In total, about 2 tonnes of HEU and 2.5 tonnes of LEU spent fuel will be moved to the Mayak reprocessing complex. This Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Program envisages 38 shipments (of both fresh and spent fuel) from ten countries over 2003-08, then 8 more shipments from six countries to remove all HEU fuel discharged before reactors converted to LEU or were shut down.

The Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) aims to minimize the amount of nuclear material available that could be used for nuclear weapons. It will also seek to put into place mechanisms to ensure that nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment - wherever they may be in the world - are not used for malicious purposes.

IAEA Director General Mohamed   
ElBaradei and US Secretary of   
Energy Spencer Abraham

Handling of cask spent fuel shipment

GTRI was launched by United States Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham at a meeting with IAEA senior officials at the IAEA headquarters in May 2004.

Under the GTRI initiative, the US would work with the IAEA and other partners to:
  • Repatriate all Russian-origin fresh high enriched uranium fuel (in cooperation with Russia and the other countries concerned) by the end of 2005, and accelerate and complete the repatriation of all Russian-origin spent fuel by 2010.
  • Take all steps necessary to accelerate and complete the repatriation of all U.S.-origin research reactor spent fuel under existing US program from locations around the world.
  • Work to convert the cores of civilian research reactors that use high enriched uranium to use low enriched uranium fuel, throughout the world.
  • Work to identify other nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment that are not yet covered by existing threat reduction efforts and ensure that these materials are used for peaceful purposes only.