U.S. Runs Out Of Nuclear Fuel From Russian Warheads

About 10 percent of electricity in the United States is fueled by enriched uranium originally produced in Russia for nuclear warheads, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which announced last week this fuel source will be used up this year.
U.S. agents monitor Russian facilities that dilute highly-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium suitable for use as fuel in the 104 operating U.S. nuclear plants. The U.S. then purchases the fuel under a 1994 contract that set aside $12 billion for the "Megatons to Megawatts" program. Russian agents monitor the U.S. use of the fuel.
About half of the fuel now used in U.S. plants derives from dismantled Soviet warheads, according to NNSA, and about 95 percent of the fuel targeted under the agreement has been consumed.
"By the end of 2013, NNSA will conclude transparency monitoring of HEU-LEU conversion activities in Russian nuclear facilities after having monitored the elimination of 500 MT of HEU—roughly equivalent to 20,000 nuclear weapons," according to an NNSA press release.
The U.S. is also blending down highly-enriched uranium from its own dismantled weapons, but is storing most of the resulting LEU, according to the World Nuclear Association. The expiration of imports of Russian fuel could affect the market for mined uranium. The "Megatons to Megawatts" program initially depressed uranium exploration, according to WNA, until the U.S. and Russia agreed on ways to handle the fuel so it would have less impact on uranium mining.
Nuclear power met about 19 percent of U.S. electricity needs in 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.

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