Sunday, February 22, 2009

Romania, Russia sign spent n-fuel disposal agreement

21.02.2009, 06.24

BUCHAREST, February 21 (Itar-Tass) -- Romania and Russia earlier this week signed an inter-governmental agreement on the removal of spent nuclear fuel from the research reactor at Turnu-Magurele, in the south of the country. Russia pledged to repatriate the nuclear fuel, supplied to Romania back in 1957, for temporary technological storage, subsequent processing and ultimate disposal.

The director of the national committee for the control of nuclear activity, Borbala Vaida, signed the agreement for Romania, and the general director of the atomic energy agency Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, for Russia. The contract was concluded within the framework of the Russian-US agreement of 2004 on the repatriation of highly-enriched nuclear wastes and their subsequent processing.

The project’s value is estimated at 4.5 million dollars, which is to be disbursed by the US Department of State. Romania will pay about 700,000 dollars for keeping processed nuclear fuel in Russia. The contract concerns about 200 kilograms of highly enriched (36 percent) nuclear fuel, which may pose a threat, if seized by terrorists. This amount is enough to make a nuclear explosive device.

The experimental nuclear reactor in Romania, loaded with Russian fuel, was shut down in 2002, and in 2003 Russia removed part of the waste. The operation will be completed in 2009. Rosatom chief recalled Russia’s vast experience of recycling and storing nuclear materials. However, this sort of activity is not a business for Russia, because the country repatriates only nuclear fuel it had provided in the past. Kiriyenko said such operations are evidence of Russia’s responsibility for ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear arms. Under the Russian-US agreement either party takes back only nuclear fuel of its origin. Over the past several years, the Rosatom chief said, Russia removed 650 kilograms of its nuclear fuel from Latvia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Vietnam, Bulgaria and other countries.

The greatest amount – 154 kilograms was taken out of Hungary. Nuclear fuel is transported amid tight security. The removal of 1.5 kilograms of waste requires five tonnes of protective equipment. Kiriyenko said the conclusion and implementation of the Romanian-Russian treaty was a major contribution to ensuring security in Europe and the world over, and to easing the potential nuclear arms proliferation risk.

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