Last of Nigeria's weapons-grade uranium flies back to China
MORE than a kilogramme of weapons-grade uranium from the Nigerian Research Reactor-1 (NIRR-1) has been returned to China, thus reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism, reports London's World Nuclear News
11 December 2018 - 19:00
'We applaud Nigeria for its commitment to preventing acts of nuclear terrorism, and we appreciate the strong support of China in executing this important non-proliferation project,' said Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
The process of loading the highly enriched uranium into a special cask, which was then transported by air cargo plane to China, was monitored by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors and technical experts from China, the Czech Republic, Russia and the US.
NIRR-1 is a Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) designed, manufactured and constructed by the China Institute of Atomic Energy, and has a maximum thermal power level of 30kW.
Originally fuelled with 90.2 per cent weapons grade uranium, the reactor is designed for use in universities, hospitals and research institutes, mainly for neutron activation analysis, production of short-lived radioisotopes, education and manpower development.
The NIRR-1 reactor is at Ahmadu Bello University's Centre for Energy Research and Training. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) in the 1990s helped Ghana, Nigeria and other countries to build 'micro-piles' like NIRR-1 to support nuclear science research and personnel training.
In 2006, efforts began to convert Chinese-designed MNSRs from highly enriched uranium (HEU) to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, enriched to less than 20 per cent U235. Ghana's GHARR-1 was the first of five such MNSR reactors outside of China to become eligible for conversion and fuel return to China.
Conversion of GHARR-1 to LEU was completed in July 2017, and its HEU fuel was returned to China the following month.
Shipment of LEU fuel to NIRR-1 began in October and the Nigerian reactor reached full-power operation using LEU fuel on November 27, CNNC said.Ms Gordon-Hagerty, also US under secretary for nuclear security, said the removal of the HEU was an example of the international community working together to reduce inventories of weapons-grade available in the world.
Removal of the last known weapons grade uranium from Nigeria makes it the 33rd country to have it removed. The NNSA said it has removed or confirmed the disposition of more than 6,725 kilograms of highly enriched uranium or plutonium worldwide.
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