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Archive for Thursday, December 25, 2003

U.S., Russia move uranium to safety

December 25, 2003

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— U.S. and Russian experts removed a cache of highly enriched uranium from a mothballed Bulgarian reactor and whisked it out of the country, part of an international plan to keep loosely guarded nuclear material out of terrorists' hands, officials said Wednesday.

It was the third such U.S.-Russian operation, aimed at securing uranium from reactors run with fuel from the former Soviet Union. In Washington, deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said more such removals were planned.

The nuclear and security experts, helped by Bulgarian special police, took 37 pounds of uranium from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences just outside the capital, Sofia, Ereli and Bulgarian officials said.

From a remote airport in eastern Bulgaria, a Russian AN-12 cargo plane flew the material to a Russian reprocessing center to be made into commercial nuclear reactor fuel.

"(The uranium) certainly presented a danger," said Nikolai Shingaryov, a spokesman for Russia's Nuclear Power Ministry, in an interview after Tuesday's removal operation. "Terrorists may steal some amount of uranium at one place, some more at another and finally get enough for making a bomb."

Washington and Moscow have launched a program to rein in nuclear materials, focusing on 24 reactors built in 16 countries.

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