Kazakhstan has removed a stockpile of Russian-origin fresh high-enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from the critical assembly of the WWR-K Research Reactor in Almaty, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said yesterday.
The fresh HEU, representing 10.2 kilograms of uranium mass, was sent to a secure storage facility in Russia on 29 September.
The HEU removal operation was managed by the IAEA, Kazakhstan, Russian and the USA under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).
"With the completion of this shipment, Kazakhstan has made a significant contribution to reducing the amount of HEU material in the country," Sandor Tozser of IAEA's Department of Nuclear Energy, said. Kazakhstan's government requested assistance from the IAEA in July this year to implement the removal operation.
"The IAEA mobilized its project support mechanism and signed a tripartite contract with the Federal State Unitarian Enterprise Scientific Research Institute, Scientific Industrial Association LUCH of the Russian Federation, and the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Republic of Kazakhstan (INP) on 12 September," Tozser said. "According to the contract terms and schedule, the fresh HEU fuel was to be shipped back by air to the country of fuel origin."
Located at Alatau, near Almaty, the WWR-K is a tank-type, light water moderated and cooled multipurpose research reactor with a nominal power of 6 MW(e). Its operator, INP, is currently planning for the reactor to be converted from HEU to low-enriched uranium.
The replacement of the instrumentation and control system is the first step of the wider program of reactor modifications related to this conversion, IAEA said. "These activities take full advantage of the assistance available from the IAEA and the GTRI," it added.
Since its launch in 2002, the Tripartite (IAEA-USA-Russia) Initiative, known as the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) Program, has facilitated the transfer of more than 2100 kilograms of Soviet-supplied HEU to Russia from 14 countries in 58 shipment operations.