Miguel-Marin-Bosch.jpgMiguel Marín Bosch, a distinguished diplomat from Mexico was one of the early and enthusiastic supporters of IPFM. He supported the initial idea of the panel and participated in the April 2005 workshop in Washington, DC, that explored the idea of the panel. He joined the panel in 2006 when it was set up.

Born in Mexico City in 1942, Miguel was educated as a historian at Yale and received a Master's degree and PhD from Columbia University. He joined Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1969. He served as its Permanent Representative to the UN Conference on Disarmament from 1989-1995, and as Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico for Africa, Asia, Europe and multilateral affairs, including disarmament from 2000 to 2002.

In 1994, Miguel chaired the first year of the negotiations on the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. He also contributed to achievement of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Land-Mine Ban Treaty.

Miguel was well described by US Ambassador Thomas Graham Jr in Disarmament Sketches: Three Decades of Arms Control and International Law. Writing about the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference, Ambassador Graham observed:

For twenty-five years, Mexico had been a thorn in the side of the United States at disarmament conferences ... Miguel Marin Bosch was seen by many as our greatest antagonist ... He was brilliant, witty and charming.

After his retirement in 2002, Miguel continued to give his time to disarmament issues. He served as Director-General of Mexico's Diplomatic Academy (Instituto Matías Romero), and was a professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. He also was the founder and president of Desarmex, a non-governmental organization working on disarmament and arms control education. He was the author of five books on disarmament, international relations, and history.

IPFM member Rebecca Johnson who perhaps knew Miguel the longest, remembers the "unfailing kindness and generosity he showed to me and and so many NGO representatives and younger diplomats. He taught us so much about diplomatic strategies and tactics, and was one of the wisest and most passionately committed of his generation."

The National Nuclear Security Administration and the South Africa company NTP completed conversion of medical isotope production in South Africa to low enriched uranium. According to NNSA< "NTP is the first major producer of Mo-99 to convert its production from HEU to LEU."

The reactor that is used to produce medical isotopes, Safari-1, was converted to LEU in 2008. Spent HEU fuel was removed to the United States in 2011.

by David Lowry

"As part of preparations for EU Exit, the UK is establishing a domestic nuclear safeguards regime to ensure that the UK continues to maintain its position as a responsible nuclear state and that withdrawal from Euratom will not result in the weakening of our future safeguards standards and oversight in the UK", Greg Clark, UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said in a written statement to the UK Parliament on 14 September (Commons HCWS137).

The UK believes that it is "vitally important" that the new domestic nuclear safeguards regime, to be run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, is as comprehensive and robust as that currently provided by Euratom (see IPFM Blog post).

The UK claims it "is seeking to conclude new agreements with the IAEA that follow the same principles as our current ones," arguing this will "ensure that the IAEA retains its right to inspect all civil nuclear facilities, and continue to receive all current safeguards reporting, ensuring that international verification of our safeguards activity continues to be robust".

Whatever the outcome of those discussions, the UK asserts it is "committed to a future regime that provides at least the existing levels of assurance." The legislation to provide for this was announced in the Queen's speech and will be brought forward "in due course".

On August 28, 2017, the UK BREXIT department issued a related policy paper Technical note on spent fuel and radioactive waste, which included this important explanation of the UK position:

The UK would expect reciprocal assurance that spent fuel and radioactive waste generated in a Euratom Member State, and present on UK territory on the date of withdrawal, will remain the responsibility of the relevant Euratom Member State. This is the current position set out under Euratom Community Law in accordance with Article 4 of Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. This principle should apply equally to any radioactive waste recovered as a by-product from the treatment or reprocessing of this spent fuel and radioactive waste.

It adds:

The UK would also expect assurance that spent fuel and radioactive waste generated in a Euratom Member State, and transferred to UK territory following the date of withdrawal as part of contracts or agreements concluded prior to the date of withdrawal, will similarly remain the responsibility of the relevant Euratom Member State.

The technical note provides further information on spent fuel and radioactive waste to support the UK's position published on July 13, 2017, in the UK's position paper on nuclear materials and safeguards.

Meanwhile, Angela Hepworth, Corporate Policy and Regulation Director for EDF Energy (UK) speaking at a House of Lords parliamentary hearing jointly with Dr Mina Golshan, Deputy Chief Inspector at the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation on the impact of Brexit on Britain's energy security, on September 13, 2017, said:

If we fail to have a safeguard regime in place and if we fail to have nuclear cooperation agreements in place from key third countries, we wouldn't be able to share nuclear components.

The forthcoming UK talks with the European Union on Euratom are scheduled to take place in the last week of September 2017.

rr16A new research report, The Use of Highly-Enriched Uranium as Fuel in Russia, (PDF copy) released by the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), provides unprecedented details of the military and civilian use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in Russia, the country which holds the world's largest stockpile of this nuclear weapon-usable material. Russia's HEU stockpile is estimated to be about 680 tons and Russia currently operates more HEU facilities than the rest of the world combined. It is also the only country producing HEU for export.

Edited by Pavel Podvig, a researcher at the Program on Science and Global Security, with contributions by six other leading Russian experts, the report describes Russian programs that use HEU as fuel or have used it for this purpose in the past (as opposed to HEU in weapons use). Russia uses HEU to fuel military and civilian naval reactors, fast neutron power reactors, plutonium and tritium production reactors, research reactors, and critical assemblies. It currently has 58 reactors and critical assemblies that use HEU on land and over 50 HEU-fueled naval reactors. As of 2017, Russia is estimated to use about 8.5 tons of HEU of various enrichments annually, a large fraction of which is weapon-grade material.

The large number of HEU facilities in Russia means that substantial amounts of HEU are constantly moving through the fuel cycle, creating nuclear security risks. HEU poses special concerns since it can be used relatively easily in a simple nuclear explosive device by states with limited nuclear weapon expertise or even by non-state actors. Over the past several decades - and especially since 9/11 - there have been high-level international initiatives to address these risks, especially for HEU in civilian applications.

The new report assesses Russia's contribution to the effort to convert research reactors from HEU to non-weapon-usable low-enriched uranium fuel, and Russia's efforts to repatriate fresh and spent HEU fuel it had supplied to research facilities abroad. It contains a comprehensive list of Russian HEU facilities, a list of all Soviet-origin reactors outside of Russia, and data on the returns to Russia of HEU fresh and spent fuel from these Soviet-origin reactors abroad. The report also evaluates the organizational structure, rules and regulations that govern the security of HEU in civilian research facilities in Russia.

The report finds that, while Russia has been active in returning its HEU from research facilities abroad and has closed down some domestic HEU facilities, it has not made HEU minimization a priority. On the contrary, it is working on a number of new projects that involve the use of HEU and in 2012 resumed production of HEU for export. Thus far, this HEU has been shipped to China's Experimental Fast Reactor, France's Jules Horowitz reactor, and Germany's FRM-II reactor.

The report argues that securing Russia's commitment to this goal requires development of a comprehensive global HEU minimization strategy. Given the variety of applications that use HEU worldwide, such a strategy should include a consistent approach to the use of HEU to fuel high-performance civilian reactors, defense-related research facilities, and naval reactors. The report concludes that, eventually, this effort also must address the material security risks associated with HEU stocks for weapons.

The VNIIEF Research Center in Sarov, one of Russia's nuclear weapon laboratories, is planning to open production of medical isotopes on an Argus-M reactor, which is a modified version of the Argus aqueous homogeneous reactor at the Kurchatov Institute. That reactor was converted to LEU in 2014. The reactor in Sarov will also use LEU.

At the public hearing on the Argus-M reactor project, held in July 2017 in Sarov, Rosatom presented its estimate of the status of the Mo-99 market and provided some information about the isotope production in Russia.

According to Rosatom estimate, market shares of the key Mo-99 producers are as follows: ANSTO (Australia) - 10%, Nordion (Canada) - 20%, Mallinckrodt (Netherlands) - 31%, NTP (South Africa) - 20%, IRE (Belgium) - 14%. Rosatom's own share in Mo-99 production is 4%.

Until recently, the main Mo-99 producer in Russia was the Obninsk branch of the Karpov NIFKhI, which produces about 170 Ci/week. There were also two "regional producers" - the Khlopin Radium Institute (St-Petersburg) and the Tomsk Polytechnic Institute. Several years ago production of the isotope began at NIIAR in Dimitrovgrad.

According to Rosatom, three out of four producers (NIIAR, Tomsk, and NIFKhI) use HEU reactors, two out of four (NIFKhI and NIIAR) use HEU targets. NIFKhI and NIIAR use fission fragments technology, Tomsk an the Khlopin Radium Institute use neutron activation.

The reactor at the Obninsk branch of NIFKhI is the VVR-Ts, the reactor in Tomsk is IRT-T. NIIAR apparently uses several reactors to irradiate the targets. The Khlopin Institute does not operate a reactor. It irradiates Mo-98 targets in RBMK reactor of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant.

UPDATE: At an IAEA meeting "Opportunities and Approaches for Supplying Molybdenum-99 and Associated Medical Isotopes to Global Markets" held in July 2017 in Vienna, Rosatom representative presented a different set of numbers. The production capacity of the NIFKhI in Obninsk is said to be 350 Ci/week, that of NIIAR - 1000 Ci/week.

It should be also noted that Nordion stopped producing Mo-99 in 2016. Taking these corrected numbers into account, Russia's production capacity is closer to the 12% of the global capacity and 25% of the global demand. (Thanks to Alan Kuperman for the correction.)

Following conversion of the GHARR-1 research reactor, completed in July 2017, the United States in cooperation with Ghana, China, and the IAEA removed all remaining HEU from Ghana. The transfer involved approximately one kilogram of HEU.

With the removal of HEU from Ghana, 33 countries plus Taiwan are now HEU-free (NNSA counts 32 countries plus Taiwan, but its count does not include Iraq).

On September 29, 2017 the International Atomic Energy Agency officially inaugurated the IAEA LEU bank in Kazakhstan. The opening ceremony in Astana was attended by the IAEA Secretary General and the President of Kazakhstan.

The plan to create the bank was approved by the IAEA in December 2010. Core funding for this project, promoted by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) was provided by Warren Buffett, who contributed $50 million on the condition that IAEA member states provide $100 million in matching funds. The funds were provided by by Norway ($5 million), the United States ($50 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million), the European Union (€25 million or $32 million), and Kuwait ($10 million).

In 2012 Kazakhstan offered the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Oskemen (formerly Ust-Kamenogorsk) as the site for the LEU bank. An agreement between Kazakhstan and the IAEA was signed in August 2015.

The IAEA LEU bank will store up to 90 tons of LEU in the form of uranium hexafluoride. The IAEA bank will join two national guaranteed fuel supply arrangements - the LEU reserve in Angarsk maintained by Russia and the American Assured Fuel Supply, established by the United States.