Serbia to Rid Itself of Nuclear Material

Serbia has announced plans to eliminate or return to Russia the last of its nuclear fuel before the end of 2010, a milestone that would free the Baltic nation of a once-significant cache of material vulnerable to seizure by extremists, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 17, 2009).

Serbia was the first state to sign onto a U.S.-Russian initiative established in 2002 to securenuclear material around the world. That year, all of the country's weapon-grade nuclear material was quietly repatriated to Russia from Serbia's Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, a former military and civilian nuclear research complex outside Belgrade that once maintained two reactors.

The larger of the two reactors was turned off in 1982, after fledgling military nuclear efforts in the former nation of Yugoslavia had lost momentum. The reactor was formally retired in 2004, and repatriation began of Serbia's remaining Russian-origin nuclear material.

When the removal of Serbian nuclear fuel began in 2002, "we had a brand new democratic, pro-Western government which wanted to demonstrate the will to cooperate in the post-Milosevic era," Nuclear Facilities of Serbia Director Radojica Pesic said. "Serbia was the first of the many points across the globe to start repatriating the fuel it received for its reactors from the Soviet Union," he added.

Serbia and Russia signed a deal last September covering removal of the last material.

Returning the Vinca site's final fuel "is obviously an operation with a major security aspect and involves security organizations, so I cannot reveal the details, but I can say it is on schedule and will be completed during the course of the year, as we agreed with Russia," Pesic said.

Spent material was being removed from a cooling pond at the Serbian facility and placed into shipping containers under the supervision of Russian specialists, he said.

"It is all carried out under the [International Atomic Energy Agency] umbrella, with the participation of the U.S. and Russia," the official noted.

The effort received $25 million in funding from Serbia, $7 million from the United States, $3 million from Russia, $2.9 million from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, $1 million from the Czech Republic and $100,000 from the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, DPA reported (Boris Babic, Deutsche Presse-Agentur/Monsters and Critics, April 7).

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The Nuclear Threat Initiative is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.]

April 8, 2010
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Serbia has announced plans to eliminate or return to Russia the last of its nuclear fuel before the end of 2010, a milestone that would free the Baltic nation of a once-significant cache of material vulnerable to seizure by extremists, Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 17, 2009).

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