US, Kazakh scientists complete nuclear conversion in secret op

October 13. Universal Newswires

US, Kazakh scientists complete nuclear conversion in secret opScientists in Kazakhstan have finished converting 72 pounds of highly dangerous nuclear material into blended down uranium, the U.S. nuclear agency revealed Wednesday.

The secret mission involved shipping the power metal from a laboratory in Almaty city in south Kazakhstan to the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in the northern industrial city of Ust-Kamenogorsk, where it was safeguarded by turning it into proliferation-resistant uranium, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) said.

The Kazakh government collaborated with the United States and UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), during the seven-week operation.

The low-enriched uranium will now be returned to the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Almaty for use in civilian research projects, NNSA said.

“This latest milestone builds on a history of successful efforts between our two nations to secure nuclear material, to combat illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological material, to strengthen the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and to pursue a world without nuclear weapons,” the statement quoted U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman as saying.

In November 2010, the Kazakh and U.S. governments completed a highly-secretive year-long operation to transfer 14 tons of uranium and plutonium thousands of miles from a defunct Soviet nuclear reactor to a high-security location.

The United States has collaborated with Kazakhstan to safeguard its nuclear and radiological inheritance from the Soviet Union since the country’s independence in 1991.