Serbia's nuclear waste shipped to Russia: IAEA
The UN atomic watchdog confirmed Thursday that it coordinated the repatriation to Russia of 2.5 tonnes of nuclear waste from a reactor in Serbia that was once considered one of the world's most dangerous.
In the biggest operation of its kind, more than 8,000 spent fuel elements -- including 13 kilogrammes (28.6 pounds) of highly enriched uranium -- were shipped from a 1950s Soviet-built research reactor just outside Belgrade to a secure Russian facility on Tuesday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.
The material from the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences had posed "potential security and environmental threats" the watchdog said.
"This was a very complicated project. We had to involve governments, contractors, and non-governmental organizations," said IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, describing the operation as "a great success."
The transfer began on November 18, when 16 shipping containers holding the fuel were loaded on heavy cargo trucks at the Vinca Institute.
A convoy of both trucks and trains then transported the fuel from Serbia via Hungary to Slovenia, arriving at the port of Koper on November 21.
There, the containers were loaded on a cargo ship which then began a three-week journey to Russia's Arctic port at Murmansk.
From there, the fuel was then carried by train to Russia's reprocessing facility at Mayak, where technicians will now separate the still-usable uranium from the spent fuel and store the remaining nuclear waste for future safe disposal, the IAEA said.
The total distance travelled was around 8,000 kilometres (4,970 miles) and the overall cost of the operation amounted to some 55 million dollars (42 million euros), most of which was put up by Serbia and international donors, the IAEA said.
The watchdog said it has actively participated in other operations to repatriate research reactor fuel to Russia, including from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Libya, Romania, and Vietnam.
In addition, the IAEA supported efforts to help countries convert their research reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel, it added.
© 2010 AFP