Last of Soviet-era uranium removed from Latvia

All Soviet-era highly enriched uranium has been removed from Latvia, part of an effort by the United States and Russia to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the Washington, D.C.-based National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced.

The NNSA, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, announced May 16 that 14.4 kilograms (nearly 30 pounds) of the uranium was taken from the Salaspils Research Reactor in Latvia to a nuclear facility near Chelyabinsk, Russia, not far from Kazakhstan.

“With this shipment of highly enriched uranium spent nuclear fuel, NNSA has completed the removal of all HEU from Latvia,” NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino said in a press release. “This cooperative effort to secure dangerous nuclear material will help reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation and prevent nuclear terrorism.”
In May 2005, NNSA worked with Russian authorities to remove three kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Latvia.

The Salaspils Research Reactor began operation in 1961 at Salaspils, near Rīga. It was the only civilian nuclear research facility in the Baltic republics. Disassembly of the facility began in 2002, according to Latvia’s Environment State Bureau.

Removal of the spent nuclear fuel is part of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, a U.S.-Russian program launched in 2006. Latvia is the third country to return Soviet-origin nuclear fuel to Russia, the NNSA said. Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic also have completed removal.

The American agency also is working with Latvian authorities to improve detection of illicit shipments of nuclear and other radioactive materials. The NNSA has helped train Latvian border guards and has installed radiation detection devices at border crossings, airports and seaports.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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