The end of a 20-year program to convert highly enriched uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear weapons was marked quietly in Baltimore this week, as the final shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) arrived at the port.
The last four cylinders arrived at the Ruckert Terminals, across from Fort McHenry, were offloaded and subsequently sent to Paducah, Kentucky, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
From the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the material “will be sent to U.S. nuclear fuel fabrication facilities, converted into fuel rods, and ultimately delivered to commercial customers for use in U.S. nuclear power reactors,” a DOE news release said.
“The shipment was the last of the LEU converted from more than 500 metric tons of weapons-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) downblended from roughly 20,000 dismantled Russian nuclear warheads and shipped to the United States to fuel U.S. nuclear reactors,” according to the DOE.
The original 1993 agreement between Russia and the U.S., signed shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, was meant to give Russia the financial incentive to dismantle thousands of nuclear weapons, keeping weapons-grade uranium out of the hands of terrorists, according to the Associated Press
It was also meant, according to the AP’s Vitniva Sladava, “to make sure Russia’s nuclear workers got paid at a time the country was nearly bankrupt.”