The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has removed the last 1kg of US-origin highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Jamaica's Slowpoke research reactor and returned the material to the United States.
The 20kW, Canadian-designed Slowpoke reactor is located at the International Center for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS) at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. It is used for neutron activation analysis research, which has applications in environmental, agricultural and health-related studies.
Following an agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Canada, Jamaica and the USA in 1984, the reactor has been using HEU fuel fabricated in Canada using US-origin HEU. However In November 2014, Jamaica asked the IAEA to assist with the conversion of the research reactor from HEU to low enriched uranium fuel. NNSA's Office of Material Management and Minimization has since worked to convert the reactor to run on LEU. The HEU core has been returned to the United States aboard a specially outfitted, dedicated ship, and is now being stored at the Savannah River Site, pending final disposition.
“Cooperating with Jamaica and Canada in completing this HEU removal is an outstanding example of how regional cooperation can support global efforts to minimize the civilian use of HEU, while preserving important research capabilities," said NNSA deputy administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Anne Harrington.
In addition to the removal from Jamaica, the United States and Canada previously collaborated on the removal of HEU from Mexico.