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U.S.-Russian “Megatons to Megawatts” Program Has Eliminated Equivalent of 9,000 Warheads

By Mike Nartker

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON — The U.S.-Russian “Megatons to Megawatts” program has so far eliminated the equivalent of 9,000 nuclear warheads, the U.S. Enrichment Corp. announced yesterday (see GSN, Jan. 16).

The program seeks to convert 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium removed from Russian nuclear weapons into fuel for use at U.S. civilian nuclear power plants by 2013. To date, about 225 metric tons of Russian highly enriched uranium has been purchased by USEC and converted into nuclear fuel at a cost of more than $3.5 billion. Russia is set to receive a total of $8 billion by the conclusion of the program.

The program was launched in 1994 by a commercial agreement between USEC and the Russian company Techsnabexport, following a governmental agreement reached the prior year between Washington and Moscow.

About 10 percent of U.S. electricity is produced using the fuel created through the program.

“The Megatons to Megawatts program is one of the most successful nonproliferation efforts worldwide,” USEC President and Chief Executive Officer William Timbers said in a press statement. “We are proud of our excellent working relationship with Russia and the fact that Soviet-era nuclear warheads once aimed at American cities are now lighting and powering our country from coast to coast.”

Yesterday’s announcement was a “milestone” that demonstrated the “continued progress” of the program, USEC spokesman Charles Yulish said today. 

“I deeply regret to report to you that it’s working smoothly,” he said jokingly. 

Yulish also said that yesterday’s announcement was timed to the statements made by both President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry (Mass.) during last week’s presidential debate concerning the threat posed by nuclear proliferation (see GSN, Oct. 1).

“Good news can happen too,” Yulish said.

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