Ho Chi Minh City -- Vietnam completed the transfer of high enriched uranium (HEU) to Russia on 3 July 2013 to repatriate its HEU research reactor fuel under the auspices of the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Programme.
The latest batch of over 10 kilograms of HEU was contained in spent nuclear fuel (SNF) irradiated in a research reactor at Vietnam's Dalat Nuclear Research Institute, located about 250 kilometres northeast of Ho Chi Minh City. The HEU was flown to Russia, where the material will be blended down to a lower enrichment level appropriate for use as nuclear power reactor fuel. About four kilograms of fresh HEU fuel was moved to Russia in 2007. The research reactor has been converted to use low enriched uranium fuel.
The Dalat reactor, which began operation in 1963, was constructed initially as a TRIGA-type reactor, and before its start-up, was reconstructed and commissioned as a Soviet-fuelled, 500-kilowatt reactor. It is used to produce medical radioisotopes among other research and industrial applications.
The IAEA was one of the parties participating in the arrangements for the fresh HEU fuel removal from Vietnam in 2007, and provided advice on safety and security for both shipments in 2007 and 2013. During the recent HEU SNF shipment, IAEA experts carried out a technical review for the shipment and advised on-site during the preparatory phase. In addition, the VPVR/M cask used for the shipment was one of ten dual-purpose (SNF storage and shipping) casks procured by the IAEA in 2006 with support from the United States Department of Energy.
Established as a tripartite agreement between the Russian Federation, the United States and the IAEA, the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return (RRRFR) programme was launched in 2002 with the goal of transferring HEU reactor fuel from nations with Soviet-supplied fuel. Since then, 53 shipment operations have been successfully completed, and more than 2 000 kilograms of HEU have been transferred to Russia from 14 countries. The IAEA actively supports the RRRFR through a broad range of technical advice and organizational support to the HEU fuel repatriation, and by providing training in research reactor conversion from high to low enriched uranium fuel.