At the 60th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz announced the successful repatriation of 61 kilograms of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from the Maria research reactor in Poland. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), this most recent removal makes Poland the 31st country, plus Taiwan, to completely remove its HEU. It was the culmination of steady work that required eleven separate shipments over the course of a decade. In total, over 700 kilograms was removed from Poland - enough for 28 nuclear weapons!
As the former Assistant Deputy Administrator for the DOE/National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), I know first-hand the herculean effort that was required to safely and securely transport such as massive quantity of nuclear material from Poland to the Russian Federation over such an extended period. The behind-the-scenes story involves remarkable cooperation between the NNSA, the Government of Poland, the IAEA, and the Russian Federation. In particular, the team at NNSA should be applauded for its efforts, particularly Sarah Dickerson, Director of Nuclear Material Removals, and Dr. Igor Bolshinsky, Program Manager for the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Removal Program. They are the real heroes responsible for this remarkable achievement.