HEU Minimization

Minimizing the Use of HEU in Civil Applications

Challenge

The world’s most dangerous materials remain scattered across 24 countries and in dozens of facilities, some poorly secured

Action

To minimize – and ultimately eliminate – the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civilian and naval applications

Results

NTI published of two groundbreaking reports on HEU minimization and the establishment of regional HEU-free zones

Highly enriched uranium (HEU), a core component of a nuclear weapon, has also been used for decades to power research reactors, produce medical isotopes and fuel naval submarines. Today, with a few exceptions, technical developments have made it possible to replace HEU with LEU in nearly all current uses and have rendered future new civil uses of HEU obsolete.

NTI supports the phased elimination of civil uses for HEU and is working to build an international consensus on the importance of reducing dependence on HEU for peaceful activities.  In particular, NTI has supported and expanded programs in the United States to convert research reactors using HEU to low-enriched uranium (LEU) and to remove HEU from as many sites and countries as possible.

A series of current and past NTI activities have sought to achieve these goals:

  • In 2002, NTI worked with international partners to transfer, secure, and eliminate through blend down more than 100 pounds of weapons-usable material from the Vinca civilian research reactor in Serbia. 
  • NTI also collaborated on a project from 2001-2005 to remove 2,900 kilograms of HEU from the Aktau site in Kazakhstan. 
  • In 2010, NTI published a report on the technology used for HEU blend‐down in Russia, which describes the technological issues that must be confronted to increase the rate of HEU blend-down and discusses the options for resolving these technological challenges.
  • In 2015, NTI and the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) issued a “Roadmap to Minimize and Eliminate HEU” in civilian nuclear applications.
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Latest Activity

Replacing Highly Enriched Uranium in Naval Reactors

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1400 K Street NW, Suite 1225, Washington, DC, 20005
The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) are hosting a discussion on the released a report, Replacing Highly Enriched Uranium in Naval Reactors.

Medical Isotopes: Balancing Supply and Security

A new CNS issue brief by Anya Loukianova discusses U.S. and international efforts to balance the trade-offs between ensuring medical isotope supply and reducing HEU in medical isotope production

Changing the Conversation on HEU

NTI's Corey Hinderstein and Andrew Newman co-authored with Ole Reistad of the Norwegian Institute of Energy Technology an article in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists calling for a change in the conversation on highly enriched uranium (HEU) from minimization to elimination.

2nd International Symposium on HEU Minimization

Vienna, Austria
Co-hosted by Austria, Norway and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the 2nd International Symposium on HEU Minimization built on the results of the first Symposium in Oslo in 2006. The Vienna Symposium revisited the issue of highly enriched uranium (HEU) minimization, reviewed the progress made and scope of efforts to date, remaining challenges and possible new measures to address them.

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