20,000 Nuclear Weapons Later, Megatons to Megawatts Program Complete

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced last week that the final shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) derived from Russian nuclear weapons had departed from the port of St. Petersburg, Russia.

“For two decades, one in ten light bulbs in America has been powered by nuclear material from Russian nuclear warheads. The 1993 United States-Russian Federation Highly Enriched Uranium Purchase Agreement has proven to be one of the most successful nuclear nonproliferation partnerships ever undertaken,” said Secretary Moniz. “The completion of this ‘swords to ploughshares’ program represents a major victory both for the United States and Russia.”

Under the agreement, commonly referred to as the Megatons to Megawatts Program, Russia downblended 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) into LEU. The resulting LEU has been delivered to the United States, fabricated into nuclear fuel, and used in nuclear power plants to generate electricity. Roughly half of all commercial nuclear energy produced domestically since 1995 has originated from this source.

Equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads, 9,630 type 30B cylinders of LEU from Russian HEU will have been delivered. A final milestone event is planned for Dec. 10, when U.S. and Russian government officials and industry partners will observe the final delivery of Russian LEU at the Port of Baltimore, bound for the United States Enrichment Corporation’s Paducah facility in Paducah, Ky. The LEU will remain subject to peaceful use requirements throughout its lifecycle.

—Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)