Truck loaded with nuclear materials cargo before departing the IAEA’s Nuclear Material Laboratory (Photo: DOE)The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) has announced the removal of plutonium from the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Office of Safeguards Analytical Services (IAEA/SGAS), Nuclear Material Laboratory in Siebersdorf, Austria, to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The reduction of this excess nuclear material from the Nuclear Material Laboratory will ensure that the IAEA can maintain its flexibility to support nuclear verification and monitoring activities critical to global non-proliferation objectives.

The plutonium included in this shipment represents approximately 15 years of accumulated residue from inspection samples collected in support of the IAEA’s safeguards mission. 

Technical experts from the US ORNL and Savannah River National Laboratory worked with a team from the IAEA for several years to complete all activities required for the safe and secure transportation of the material to the USA. 

“The IAEA is extremely grateful to the NNSA for supporting this removal,” said IAEA/SGAS Director Steve Balsley. “The success of the project was made possible through methodical planning, in-depth exchanges that laid the technical groundwork, and the productivity of the motivated team of NNSA and IAEA experts.”

Now that the plutonium has arrived at ORNL, it will be utilised in sealed sources for non-proliferation research and development efforts. 

“Our close coordination during the pandemic demonstrates our enduring commitment to support the IAEA in its nuclear safeguards and security missions,” said NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Non-proliferation Corey Hinderstein. “We are proud of our laboratory experts who were able to identify a solution to repurpose the material in support of non-proliferation and nuclear detection efforts.”

NNSA’s Office of Nuclear Material Removal works with partner nations and international institutions around the world to identify excess nuclear material and implement permanent solutions to consolidate, remove, and/or dispose of these inventories. To date, the office has removed or confirmed the disposition of nearly 7270kg of weapons-usable nuclear material. 

 Truck loaded with nuclear materials cargo before departing the IAEA’s Nuclear Material Laboratory (Photo: DOE)