Megatons to Megawatts

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The Megatons to Megawatts™ Program was a unique, commercially financed government-industry partnership in which bomb-grade uranium from dismantled Russian nuclear warheads was recycled into low enriched uranium (LEU) used to produce fuel for American nuclear power plants.  Centrus’ subsidiary United States Enrichment Corporation, as executive agent for the U.S. government, and Techsnabexport (TENEX), acting for the Russian government, implemented this 20-year, $8 billion program at no cost to taxpayers.

Program Status

As of December 2013, the program has been completed: 500 metric tons of bomb-grade HEU have been recycled into more than 14,000 metric tons of LEU, equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads eliminated enough material to produce fuel to power the entire United States for about two years.

Overview

Through a multi-step process in Russia, the bomb-grade uranium material was converted into a different chemical form and then diluted into LEU suitable for use in fabricating commercial nuclear power reactor fuel. Centrus then purchased the LEU to market to its utility customers.

The Megatons to Megawatts program significantly enhanced world security by steadily reducing stockpiles of nuclear bomb-grade materials, while creating a clean, valuable resource—uranium for use in nuclear fuel.

Virtually the entire U.S. nuclear reactor fleet participated in this program by using fuel fabricated with LEU from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

In years past, up to 10 percent of the electricity produced in the United States was generated by fuel fabricated using LEU from the Megatons to Megawatts program.

The Agreement

Centrus’ subsidiary, United States Enrichment Corporation, was the U.S. government's executive agent responsible for implementing the historic 1993 government-to-government agreement between the United States and Russia.

The agreement called for Russia to convert 500 MT of HEU from dismantled nuclear warheads into LEU to be fabricated into fuel for nuclear reactors to generate electricity. This is the equivalent of about 20,000 nuclear warheads.

To implement the agreement, Centrus’ government-owned predecessor entered into a 20-year commercial contract with Techsnabexport (TENEX), executive agent for the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), in 1994.

The Process

The conversion and dilution of HEU took place in Russia. The resulting LEU was then shipped to USEC facilities in Paducah, Kentucky. For an overview of this process, see HEU to LEU: Step-by-Step.

The first shipment of warhead-derived LEU from Russia arrived in the United States in June 1995.

Uranium/Enrichment Components

Under terms of the contract, as amended in 1996, United States Enrichment Corporation (i) purchased the enrichment portion of the blended-down material and sold it to its electric utility customers for use in fabricating fuel for their commercial nuclear power plants, and (ii) transfered to TENEX a quantity of natural uranium equal to the natural uranium component of the LEU. In 1999, Russia entered into a sales agreement with three Western companies for that natural uranium.

The total purchase price of the enrichment portion of the material was more than $8 billion. Including the natural uranium delivered by Centrus to TENEX, the program's total value was more than $12 billion.

How Much Energy Is That?

Find out how much energy 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium contains compared to conventional fuel sources.