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Hungary Completes High Enriched Uranium Research Reactor Fuel Removal

HEU fuel storage and shipping casks

IAEA-procured dual-purpose casks (blue) being loaded into TUK-145/C transport packages for "repatriation" of spent HEU fuel to Russia. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)

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


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