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.