The most difficult challenge for a terrorist organization seeking to build a nuclear weapon or improvised nuclear device is obtaining fissile material, either plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU).
To help prevent this material from falling into the wrong hands, the international community is moving towards consolidating fresh and spent HEU at a smaller number of secure locations. The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué reiterated the role that consolidating nuclear materials plays in enhancing nuclear security worldwide. This has resulted in several countries returning HEU to original suppliers, as well as the consolidation of inventories within countries.
Canada has significant quantities of U.S.-origin HEU materials stored at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s (AECL) Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario. In 2010, Canada and the U.S. agreed to cooperate in the repatriation of this U.S.-origin HEU fuel to the U.S. between 2010 and 2018. Working with the U.S., Canada has made significant progress in implementing this commitment. The first shipment of highly-enriched uranium fuel was returned in 2010. The shipment of the second tranche of fuel is expected to occur later this year.
Demonstrating our ongoing commitment in this area, Canada and the U.S. have agreed to expand the initiative to return additional HEU material stored at Chalk River. This includes HEU-bearing liquid and a small number of HEU booster rods.
The return of this HEU material to the U.S. will result in increased security of this inventory and in cost savings over long-term management in Canada.
HEU repatriation will be funded and carried out under the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program (NLLP) which is a long-term strategy to manage legacy wastes and contamination at AECL sites, including Chalk River.