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Savannah River Site receives more spent nuclear fuel from Japan

The Savannah River Site has received more nuclear fuel from Japan. 

President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced Monday, May 23, that over 30 kilograms of highly enriched uranium had been moved from three Japanese sites to the Savannah River Site and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

At the Savannah River Site or in Oak Ridge, the uranium will be downblended into low-enriched uranium for use in nuclear fuel or dispositioned so that it can't be used to make a nuclear weapon in the future. 

The National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Transport Solutions and Civil Nuclear Constabulary worked to remove and ship the material from Japan to the United States. 

NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Corey Hinderstein said the removal is the result of years of close cooperation and hard work which was made more challenging by the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the virus. 

"It speaks to the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan,” he said in a news release. “Permanently eliminating nuclear material that could be used in a weapon is just one of the ways NNSA and its international partners help make the world a safer place every day.”

The uranium was removed from the Yayoi Research Reactor at the University of Tokyo, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Deuterium Critical Assembly and Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Japan Research Reactor 4 as part of a commitment announced at a 2018 U.S.-Japan Bilateral Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation meeting in Tokyo. 

In 2016, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency sent plutonium to the Savannah River Site. Originally, it was planned to move the material to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico but in 2019, the NNSA decided to dissolve the plutonium in H Canyon. 

The Office of Environmental Management announced in April that the Fast Critical Assembly was online and ready to dispose of the plutonium.