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Route to Security: Removing HEU Fuel from a Research Reactor in Uzbekistan

16 November 2015
On 24 September 2015, irradiated liquid highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel was removed from a research reactor at the Radiation and Technological Complex in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The following pictures document the removal operation from the reactor hall to the airplane at Tashkent International Airport carrying the fuel to Russia.  (Photo S. Tozser/IAEA)For over 60 years, research reactors have been one of the locomotives of nuclear science and technology. They are used in a variety of applications, from basic research, isotope production, neutron radiography as well as in the education and training of generations of scientists, reactor operators and engineers. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)A total of 770 research reactors have been built since the 1950’s, with some 246 of these facilities still in active operation.  Many of these reactors were built to use HEU, widely considered to be a proliferation and security concern. The IAEA is supporting Member States’ efforts to remove HEU from research reactors worldwide. (Photo: K. Gregorich-Hansen/IAEA)An external view of the IIN-3M “FOTON” reactor building showing the windows, the reinforced wall with biological shielding and the ventilation chimney. Removal of its fuel was carried out under the umbrella of the Tri-partite (IAEA-USA-Russian Federation) Initiative, also known as the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) Programme. (Photo S. Tozser/IAEA)The storage facility in the ‘Foton’ reactor hall containing the irradiated liquid HEU fuel that was drained from the “Foton” reactor core. The covering sheets are made of lead; both the covering sheets as well as the valves are sealed with an IAEA safeguards seals. (Photo: Jiří Veselý/UJV-Rez)The IAEA safeguards seal is an important assurance measure that the material has not been opened or tampered with during storage. IAEA safeguards inspectors were present to monitor the fuel transport. (Photo: Sandor Tozser/IAEA)A monitor mounted on the remote control panel of the storage facility provides a feed of the removal operation  from a safe distance. (Photo: Jiří Veselý/UJV-Rez)These are the transport canisters used to store the liquid HEU fuel for transport and delivery. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)An inside view of the SKODA VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container that will hold the transport canisters containing the liquid HEU fuel. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)These images taken from the television monitor on the remote control panel show key procedures performed prior to removing the transport canister from the reactor hall. 1) Transport canister charging; 2) Closing the transport canister and performing dose rate measurement about one meter away from the surface of the interim transfer cask. 3) The transport trolley with the interim transfer cask containing the filled transport canister is taken out of the reactor hall. (Photos:  František Sviták/UJV-Rez)(Left) Pouring the spare liquid fresh fuel out from the storage glassware to an intermediate pipette. The spare fresh fuel was sucked by vacuuming into the storage facility containing the irradiated liquid HEU fuel drained from the “Foton” reactor core. Thus, it was mixed with the irradiated liquid HEU fuel. (Right) Sucking the fresh liquid fuel by vacuuming from the intermediate pipette to the storage facility. (Photo: Tatyana Kirilova/IIN-3M “Foton” Facility)
A transport trolley with an interim transfer cask is used to move the transport canister from the reactor hall to the delivery point located outside the building. (Photos:  František Sviták/UJV-Rez)A crane operator lifts and maneuvers the interim transfer cask to its place on top of the SKODA VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container.  (Photos:  František Sviták/UJV-Rez)Loading the SKODA VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container into an ISO transport container. (Photo: Josef Podlaha/UJV-Rez)The convoy on the road from the Radiation and Technological Complex to Tashkent International Airport. The container with the HEU fuel in the truck right in front of the police car. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Pulling out the Skoda VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container form the ISO transport container at Tashkent International Airport. This container, which contains the liquid fuel, is licensed for surface transport by truck, rail or ship. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Gamma dose rate measurement on the Skoda VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container’s surface. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Inserting the Skoda VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container into the lower part of the TUK-145/C over-package. This over-package, made of titanium, meets the more stringent criteria necessary for air transport. It protects its content from extreme shocks, such as one associated with a plane crash. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Closing the TUK-145/C over-package enveloping the SKODA VPVR/M spent fuel shipment container containing irradiated liquid HEU fuel. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Putting in the final screws to hold together the top and bottom halves of the TUK-145/C over-package. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Final gamma dose rate measurement on the TUK-145/C over-package’s surface. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)Truck drives up the ramp into the compartment part of the AN-124 cargo plane. The truck will stay in the plane and travel with the over-package to Russia. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)The truck and the over-package in "flight position" just before the closing of the plane. Final destination: Mayak reprocessing facility, Russia. (Photo: S. Tozser/IAEA)
Last update: 15 February 2018

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