Author Topic: How America uses uranium from Russian Cold War nuclear warheads to heat millions of homes  (Read 222 times)

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By Lizzie Parry

It is a post-Cold War collaboration between the US and Russia, which has provided heat to millions of homes across America.

But the little-known Megatons-to-Megawatts programme, which has seen 20,000 decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads transformed into nuclear energy in the US, has drawn to a close this month.

The final shipment of low enriched uranium (LEU) was unloaded at the Port of Baltimore in Maryland on December 10 after a four-week journey by sea from St Petersburg.

It was the last of the LEU converted from more than 500 tonnes of highly enriched uranium from the Russian warheads, deactivated under the 1991 START treaty at the end of the Cold War.

The recycling and transfer of the uranium to the US was formalised in a 1993 agreement and has seen hundreds of shipments arrive in the US destined for the country's nuclear reactors.

The programme has supplied nearly 10 per cent of all American electricity and around one in 10 light bulbs powered via the scheme in the last two decades.

The shipment marks the end of the unprecedented programme, which has seen the US pay its former enemy $8billion (£5bn) in the last 20 years

It was the last of the LEU converted from more than 500 tonnes of highly enriched uranium from the Russian warheads, deactivated under the 1991 START treaty at the end of the Cold War.

The recycling and transfer of the uranium to the US was formalised in a 1993 agreement and has seen hundreds of shipments arrive in the US destined for the country's nuclear reactors.

The programme has supplied nearly 10 per cent of all American electricity and around one in 10 light bulbs powered via the scheme in the last two decades.

The shipment marks the end of the unprecedented programme, which has seen the US pay its former enemy $8billion (£5bn) in the last 20 years

HOW DO NUCLEAR WARHEADS BECOME ELECTRICITY TO HEAT HOMES?

The process began with the removal of the warheads and their highly enriched uranium metal components.

At plants in Seversk and Ozersk the components are ground down into metal shavings, which are then heated and converted into a highly enriched uranium oxide.

That was then heated to make a gas, which was mixed with a very low enriched uranium material before it was diluted to less than five per cent concentration the fissionable uranium-235 isotope, a level too low to be of any military value but ideal for producing electric power.

The material is then transferred to 2.5-tonne steel cylinders, enclosed in protective shipping containers and sent to a storage facility in St Petersburg.

After completing its journey to America, the shipment is then taken to the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) plant in Paducah, where it is tested to ensure it meets the appropriate specifications.

It is then converted into uranium oxide pellets and fabricated into fuel assemblies. delivered to plants across the US to be used in their nuclear reactors to create energy


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2530318/How-America-uses-uranium-Russian-Cold-War-nuclear-warheads-heat-millions-homes.html#ixzz2qLlnP8MH
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