Urals Electrochemical Combine (UEKhK)

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Last Updated: April 30, 2014
Other Name: (ОАО) Уральский электрохимический комбинат, УЭХК; Urals Electrochemical Integrated Plant, UEIP
Location: Novouralsk, Sverdlovsk Oblast
Subordinate To: TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom
Size: Approximately 13,000 employees
Facility Status: Operational

Production of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) for the Soviet nuclear program at the Urals Electrochemical Combine (UEKhK) in Sverdlovsk-44, now called Novouralsk, began in 1949. By the end of the Cold War, when the gaseous diffusion equipment was replaced with centrifuge technology and additional plants were constructed, the facility had the capacity to produce almost 12 million SWU per year. [1]

UEKhK is fully converted to civilian use and no longer produces HEU. Today, UEKhK enriches uranium for Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel, and develops technologies with a range of industrial applications. [2] The facility has a production capacity of 10 million SWU/year, the world's largest to-date, and can enrich up to 30% U-235 material, which is used for research and fast breeder reactors. [3] In addition, UEKhK is a participant in the U.S.-Russian HEU-LEU program, under which it downblends some HEU. [4]

UEKhK has a history of foreign partnerships. It was one of the primary facilities, along with the Angarsk Electrolytic Chemical Combine, involved in the construction of centrifuge plants in Shaan-xi and Lanzhou, China in the 1990s to serve China's domestic fuel needs. [5] Since 2010, Rosatomprom and Kazatomprom have been developing a plan for a Russo-Kazakh joint venture, the "Uranium Enrichment Center (UEC)," based at Novouralsk. The facility would enrich uranium for Kazakhstan; its share would be 50%, proportionate to the need to enrich to 6000 tU/yr. [6] The UEKhK also received funding and assistance from the U.S. Government through the Department of Energy's MPC&A program, which focused on improving material control and accounting, as well as physical protection at the facility. [7]

[1] Pavel Podvig, "History of Highly Enriched Uranium Production in Russia," Science & Global Security, 19/2011, pp. 58-59.
[2] "О предприятии” [“About the Enterprise”], ОАО "Уральский электрохимический комбинат" [OJSC “Ural Electrochemical Combine”], www.ueip.ru.
[3] "Russia's Nuclear Fuel Cycle," World Nuclear Association, August 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[4] Pavel Podvig, "Consolidating Fissile Materials in Russia's Nuclear Complex," International Panel on Fissile Materials, May 2009, p. 25, www.fissilematerials.org.
[5] Oleg Bukharin, "Understanding Russia's Uranium Enrichment Complex," Science and Global Security, 12:193–218, 2004.
[6] "Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan," World Nuclear Association, March 2014, www.world-nuclear.org.
[7] "MPC&A Program: Strategic Plan," Office of Arms Control and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of Energy, January 1998.

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