Welcoming Remarks to the 2nd International Symposium on HEU Minimization

Welcoming Remarks to the 2nd International Symposium on HEU Minimization

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Thank you, Ambassador Böck and good morning.

As we worked with the other co-sponsors of this symposium to develop the agenda for the next three days, I was struck by how the conversation on HEU minimization has changed in the last 5 years.  There are a few reasons for this, and those reasons are reflected in the final agenda. 

Politically, the Nuclear Security Summit process has developed a broader international consensus than previously existed on the value and necessity to remove material and convert facilities and processes to use low enriched uranium. This is driven, in part, by a greater agreement that the threat of nuclear terrorism is real; that HEU is the material of highest risk (though not the only one) and that it is therefore the responsibility of states to reduce those risks to lowest extent possible.  We, of course, recognize that all states should have the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy.  But this progress is entirely consistent with HEU minimization, threat reduction, and nonproliferation goals.

In addition, great technical progress has been made.  In areas such as material packaging and transport (allowing for removal); fuel and core designs for reactor conversion; and reactor utilization approaches and target development for converting processes such as those producing medical isotopes.

Economics of HEU and LEU use have also changed.  There are more players entering new markets who are focusing on LEU use.  There is a greater demand for and more production of LEU based technologies, driving research and development and setting the stage that allows preferential procurement of non-HEU origin material.  These changes are beginning to drive decisions on both new facility and process start-up and conversion time frames.

This is not to imply that all problems are solved.  We will hear at this seminar much more detail about these trends, but also about the many remaining challenges.  But we meet at a moment where all these elements are trending in the right direction.  This does not always happen.  It is our responsibility to seize the moment, broaden the consensus, and make commitments irreversible.

Finally, on behalf of the NTI team, I would like to thank our symposium co-hosts – the Foreign Ministries of Austria and Norway and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority.  I recognize that it is unusual for governments and NGOs to partner on activities like this.  I am glad that event continues the joint efforts that we have done with Norway, and I hope it is the first of more to come with Austria.  In addition, this Symposium would not be possible without the strong cooperation of the IAEA all through the planning process, so I thank the Agency as well.  And of course I thank all of you for your interest, commitment and time.  Together, we can identify and overcome the remaining technical, political and economic challenges to end the use of HEU in civil applications, and continue to minimize its use globally as we work toward that goal.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our Keynote speaker, Ambassador Jan Peterson.  Ambassador Petersen was a long-time Member of Parliament and Leader of Conservative party in Norway.  He served as Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs 2001-2005.  He is currently Ambassador of Norway to Austria and also Permanent Representative to the UN organizations in Vienna, a position he has held since 2009.

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