US helps Ukraine dispose of enriched uranium
The United States has helped Ukraine remove 50 kilos (111 pounds) of highly enriched uranium from three Ukrainian sites to be disposed of in Russia, US officials announced Friday.
The move was made as part of a pledge by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year to remove all his country's highly enriched uranium by 2012.
"The removal of this highly enriched uranium from Ukraine is a major milestone that brings us one step closer" to reaching US President Barack Obama's goal "of securing all nuclear material around the world within four years," said Thomas D'Agostino, director of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Five flights in the last half of December were made to remove the highly enriched uranium, fly it to Russia, and replace it with low enriched uranium for Ukraine, the NNSA said in its statement.
"NNSA worked closely with Ukrainian authorities, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom to complete this very complicated operation," it added.
Obama welcomed the news, saying in a statement: "These actions represent continued Ukrainian leadership in making sure that nuclear weapons never fall into the hands of a terrorist, and working toward a world without nuclear weapons."
As part of the deal, NNSA flew two air shipments of low enriched uranium to replace the highly enriched uranium located at the Kiev Institute for Nuclear Research and the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology.
"The remaining three flights removed fresh HEU from the facilities in Kiev and Kharkiv as well as the Sevastopol National University of Nuclear Industry and Energy," the NNSA statement added.
© 2010 AFP