International cooperation has seen 36 kg of high-enriched uranium removed from a scientific institute in Kazakhstan and returned to Russia.
The material had been used to fuel the WWR-K research reactor at the Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP) at Alatau, near Almaty. The unit is a tank-type, light water moderated and cooled multipurpose research reactor with a nominal power of 6 MWt.
Two air shipments were used in the removal operation, which was the result of cooperation between Kazakhstan, Russia, the USA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The work was announced by the US National Nuclear Security Administration on 7 January.
It comes after a similar operation in late September last year which removed 10.2 kg of the same kind of material, which could potentially be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.
A further 50 kg of high-enriched uranium remains in Kazakhstan and the same team will cooperate to remove this "over the next several years" said the NNSA, "thereby eliminating all high-enriched research reactor fuel" from the country.
There is a program of work to convert the research reactor at INP to use low-enriched fuel - the same grade as used in commercial nuclear power plants - which cannot be used as a weapon.