U.S., Canada Complete Nuclear Material Shipping Campaign

Acting NNSA Administrator Dr. William Bookless. Screenshot/LADP

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited President and CEO Richard Sexton. Screenshot/LADP

NNSA News:

  • Material had been used to create life-saving medicines

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) announced the completion of a multi-year campaign to repatriate 161 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) liquid target residue material from Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, Canada, to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C.

The shipping campaign, which began in 2017 and finished in 2020, involved 115 separate truck shipments. Over the four years of the campaign, the shipments covered approximately 150,000 miles of safe and secure transportation, equivalent to traveling around the earth six times. (To learn more about how the partners accomplished this, click here.)

“Completing this multi-year project with Canada marks another important step in the global effort to minimize the civilian use of HEU around the world,” Acting NNSA Administrator Dr. William Bookless said. “This significant achievement could not have been accomplished without the strong cooperation and hard work from all our partners in Canada and the United States.”

AECL President and CEO Richard Sexton stated, “This is another great example of AECL and NNSA working together to advance our shared nonproliferation objectives and advance global nuclear security.”

The Canadian target residue material was the by-product of the production of medical isotopes from AECL’s National Research Universal research reactor. Although the research reactor is now shut down, for many decades it produced medical isotopes that benefitted millions of people internationally each year for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. The medical isotopes were produced using HEU supplied by the United States.

The target residue material was returned to the United States under the U.S.-Origin Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel Acceptance Program, which was established in 1996 with the mission to repatriate U.S.-origin spent nuclear fuel and other weapons-grade nuclear material from civilian sites worldwide.

DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, and Savannah River National Laboratory were key partners and played a pivotal role in the success of the campaign. It also relied on the cooperation and aid of numerous state and tribal governments.

AECL and NNSA have signed a memorandum of understanding to enable more effective collaboration in the areas of nuclear safety and security and are exploring the repatriation of additional HEU and other materials over the next several years.