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Transfer of Bomb-Sensitive Uranium Could Start Within Months

The U.S. Energy Department hopes within months to start transferring a cache of aging, weapon-usable atomic material from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Friday.

More than 1 ton of material covered by the Consolidated Edison Uranium Solidification Project encompasses high-temperature uranium 232 as well as fission-capable uranium 233 and uranium 235. Transportation of the substance by hired firms could start around the beginning of next year; the department said defensive considerations would preclude any announcement of the project's launch or of developments as it unfolds.

"All approvals to ship are not yet in place, but we expect approval soon," the department stated last week.

Plans to inter the uranium in Nevada could result in an accident or in the substance being tapped for illicit use, former Energy Department policy adviser Robert Alvarez said in an analysis earlier this year.

The uranium is slated for placement more than 40 feet below the Earth's surface, under a separate quantity of disused radiological material, Energy Department official Mark Whitney said. The plan seems to be aimed at addressing the weapon capability of the uranium now intended for burial, according to the News Sentinel.

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