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(November 2013, Hungary)

That the US Secretary of Energy thinks that sending “vulnerable nuclear materials” to Russia is safer than leaving them in Hungary, shows just how out of it he is. Hungary is in the EU. Russia is not. Hungary is peaceful. Russia is bellicose. This was pre-Crimea, but Russia was already that way.

The US idea of safety is sending dangerous nuclear waste by road to the Budapest airport, then flying it to Moscow and then taking it to Mayak, in Russia. They don’t even seem to have lights for the transport! (The light you see is a street light. Watch the video.)

According to Bellona: “Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) contains artificial radionuclides and needs to be isolated in bulky special-purpose containers. Its transportation thus carries increased risks, something that environmentalists point out when such deliveries take place.“. Furthermore, the Spent nuclear fuel sent back to Russia “is reprocessed at the chemical reprocessing facility Mayak, a site in Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals. But rather than solve the problem, SNF reprocessing leads to accumulation of radioactive waste. Mayak has for decades been dumping liquid radioactive waste into nearby water bodies, contaminating the local environment.” [1]

The removal of Hungary’s remaining HEU inventory shows the overwhelming response of the international community to President Obama’s call to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “We know that in the wrong hands, just small amounts of these materials could be used to create a weapon of mass destruction. This operation in Hungary and our ongoing partnerships with countries around the world help to ensure that terrorists never obtain a nuclear weapon.http://energy.gov/articles/united-states-international-partners-remove-last-remaining-weapons-usable-highly-enriched

Notice that this is spent fuel: “The latest batch of 49.2 kilograms of HEU contained in spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that was irradiated in the Budapest Research Reactor (BRR) was flown to Russia by three air-shipment operations in the past six weeks.http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/hungaryheu.html

Backing Hungarian Waste into Airplane Budapest
US NNSA image; Backing Nuclear Waste into Airplane at the Budapest Airport.

From the Complete IAEA article:
Hungary Completes High Enriched Uranium Research Reactor Fuel Removal

Budapest, Hungary — Hungary just completed the transfer of its high enriched uranium (HEU) research reactor fuel to the Russian Federation, becoming the ninth nation to completely remove such fuel from its territory since the Tripartite (IAEA-US-Russian Federation) Initiative known as the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) programme which began in 2002.

The latest batch of 49.2 kilograms of HEU contained in spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that was irradiated in the Budapest Research Reactor (BRR) was flown to Russia by three air-shipment operations in the past six weeks.

Earlier, 154.5 kg of HEU SNF had been transferred to Russia in October 2008, and 35.4 kg of fresh HEU fuel were repatriated in 2009 and 2012. The three recent shipments bring the total amount of HEU removed from Hungary to 239.1 kg.

The BRR is a Russian-origin research reactor that went into operation in 1959 with a power of 2 MW. It went through two upgrades, increasing the nominal power to its current 10 MW. Following the commitment to join the RRRFR programme, the BRR has been converted to use LEU fuel.

The IAEA was one of the parties participating in the arrangements for the fresh HEU fuel removal from Hungary, and provided advice on safety and security for the SNF shipment. In addition, the VPVR/M casks used during the 2008 and 2013 SNF removals were the dual-purpose (storage and shipping) casks procured by the IAEA in 2006, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

At the recent SNF shipment operations, six Skoda VPVR/M casks containing the SNF assemblies were placed in TUK-145/C transport packages at the BRR site. They were then transported via public road to the Budapest International Airport where they were loaded on board an Antonov-124 cargo plane to be flown to Russia.

Background

Under the RRRFR Programme launched in 2002 by the IAEA, the United States of America and the Russian Federation, more than 2 000 kg of Russian-supplied HEU has been transferred to Russia from 14 countries in 56 shipment operations. The IAEA actively supports the RRRFR through a broad range of technical advice and organizational support, and by providing training in research reactor conversion from high to low enriched uranium fuel.
— By Sandor Tozser, IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy
(Note to Media: We encourage you to republish these stories and kindly request attribution to the IAEA)
http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/hungaryheu.html

plaque for hungarian nuclear waste
NNSA image (notice that screws on plaque look rusty!)

While the uranium may have been enriched in Russia, it was most likely mined in Germany or the Czech Republic, which are closer!

[1] “Secret shipment of Soviet-origin highly enriched uranium arrives in Russia from Ukraine Published on January 11, 2011 by Bellona http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/radioactive-waste-and-spent-nuclear-fuel/2011-01-secret-shipment-of-soviet-origin-highly-enriched-uranium-arrives-in-russia-from-ukraine