U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission received a license request XSNM3828 from the Y-12 National Security Complex to export 113.2 kg of 93% HEU to Belgium. The material will be contained in 255 Driver fuel assemblies for the BR2 Reactor, which is operated by the Belgian Nuclear Research Center SCK•CEN in Mol.
Previous export license, requested in 2016, covered the export of "325 BR2 Reactor standard HEU driver fuel elements," which contained 144 kg of HEU enriched to 93.20%. At the time, SCK•CEN changed the fuel provider, switching from the French CERCA to U.S. Babcock & Wilcox.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to send the spent fuel of the Monju reactor for reprocessing to France. Assuming that the JAEA and Orano agree on the terms of the contract, the shipments will begin in 2034 and be completed in 2037.
The Monju reactor is a prototype fast-neutron reactor that was shut down in 2017. The 30-years decommissioning plan was approved in 2018.
According to one estimate, the Monju spent fuel contains about 2.1 tonnes of (reactor-grade) plutonium.
The United States announced the removal of plutonium from the IAEA Nuclear Material Laboratory in Siebersdorf, Austria. The material was transferred to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. According to NNSA, "it will be utilized in sealed sources for nonproliferation research and development efforts."
The amount of material has not been reported. It is likely to be small, since this material is the "accumulated residue from inspection samples collected in support of the IAEA's safeguards mission."
The United States announced that "there is now enough worldwide supply of the medical isotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) made without using highly enriched uranium (HEU) to meet the needs of patients in the United States."
According to the DoE statement, this certification will trigger the ban on export of US HEU for medical isotope production. The ban was supposed to enter into force in January 2020, but was postponed for two years since at the time the United States could not obtain all Mo-99 from HEU-free sources. Now the ban is expected to be enforced. The most recent HEU export license for medical isotope production was issued in April 2020.
In addition to HEU export for medical isotope production, the United States also provides HEU for some research reactors. The most recent license application of this kind was submitted in September 2020.
NBL Program Office (New Brunswick Laboratory) requested an export license XSNM3827 to supply five grams of 94% HEU to Ultra Electronics Energy, a UK company that manufactures various radiation detectors.
UPDATE: The license XSNM3827 was issued on 21 March 2022.
On 19 November 2021 Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB), the company that operates the uranium enrichment plant in Resende, announced that it will launch a ninth centrifuge cascade shortly. According to INB, the cascade will increase the plant's capacity by 5 percent. Another cascade is expected to become operational in 2023, increasing the capacity by further 5 percent. IND estimates that this will allow the plant to cover about 70 percent of the demand for the Angra 1 reactor.
The current capacity of the Resende plant is estimated to be 45 tSWU/year. The installation of two new cascades will bring the capacity to about 50 tSWU/year.
The Resende plan began operations in 2009 and its capacity have been gradually increasing. The seventh cascade became operational in 2018. Apparently the eighth cascade was added at some point after that.
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission received a request from the US National Nuclear Security Administration to license export of small quantities of fissile materials for the International Atomic Energy Agency. The license request XSNM3826 includes the following materials:
- Plutonium (93% Pu-239) metal - 30 g
- Uranium (94% U-235) metal - 50 g
- Uranium oxide (UO2) fuel pellet, 4% enriched - 1.5 kg of UO2 containing 99 g of U-235
- Uranium oxide (U3O8) powders, up to 97% enriched - 100 g of U3O8 (from depleted uranium to 97% enriched), containing 5 g of U-235
- Plutonium isotopic standard (50% Pu-239) - 10 g.
According to the application,
These materials are to be used at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Materials Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria. They are used for calibration and quality control of measurements performed in support of Safeguards Agreements and support the IAEA's safeguards and nonproliferation mission.
UPDATE: The license XSNM3826 was granted on 12 May 2022.
A shipment of plutonium-containing MOX fuel that left Cherbourg Harbor, France, on 8 September 2021, arrived in Japan on 17 November 2021.
According to Orano, it was the 7th shipment of this kind. It contained 16 MOX fuel assemblies supplied by Orano for the Takahama nuclear power plant. The fuel was transported by Pacific Heron and Pacific Egret, the specialized ships belonging to British company PNTL. Japan reported that the fuel contained 629 kg of plutonium.
It appears that the shipment was re-routed shortly after departure, probably to avoid passing through the Suez Canal.
This post contains a summary of INFCIRC/549 reports by the countries that submit annual civilian plutonium declarations that reflect the status of civilian plutonium stocks as of 31 December 2020.
Japan (INFCIRC/549/Add.1-24) reported owning the total of 46.1 tons of plutonium, 8.9 tons of which is in Japan (the numbers in 2019 were 45.5 tons and 8.9 tons respectively). According to the Status Report on Plutonium Management in Japan - 2020 released in July 2021, out of the 37.2 tons of plutonium abroad, 21.805 tons are in the United Kingdom and 15.411 tons are in France.
Germany (INFCIRC/549/Add.2-24) reported having no separated plutonium in the country for the second year in a row. Germany does not report separated plutonium outside of the country. It is believed to be less than 1 ton.
Belgium (INFCIRC/549/Add.3-20) declared no separated plutonium in storage or at reprocessing plants and "not zero, but less than 50 kg" of separated plutonium in other categories. It reported that it had no foreign plutonium as of 31 December 2020.
Switzerland (INFCIRC/549/Add.4-25) reported having less than 2 kg of plutonium in the country (in the "located elsewhere" category). The number has not changed since 2016 (it was "less than 50 kg" in 2015).
France (INFCIRC/549/Add.5-25) reported having 95.0 tons of separated unirradiated plutonium in its custody. Of this amount, 15.6 tons belongs to foreign countries. It appears that almost all that plutonium - 15,411 kg - belongs to Japan. The amount of plutonium owned by France is 79.5 tons, an increase of 4.8 tonnes from previous year (74.7 tons).
The United States has not submitted its 2019 report. In its 2020 report (INFCIRC/549/Add.6-23) declared 49.4 tons of separated plutonium, of which 4.6 tons are in MOX fuel and 44.8 tons are "held elsewhere" (most of this material is believed to be in weapon components). This amount was reported to be 44.7 tons in 2018, but went back to 44.8 tons in 2019 (as indicated by the "previous year" number in the 2020 declaration). These changes appear to reflect changes in the accounting for the material - the amount reported as "disposed as waste" was 4.6 tons in 2018, but was reverted to 4.5 tons in 2020.
China has not has not submitted its 2017-2020 reports as of 24 October 2021. The last INFCIRC/549 report submitted to the IAEA showed 40.9 kg of separated plutonium as of 31 December 2016.
The United Kingdom (INFCIRC/549/Add.8-24) reported owning 116.1 tons of separated plutonium, an increase from 115.8 in 2018 (most likely the result of taking title of already separated Japan's plutonium). In addition to that, the United Kingdom stores 24.1 tons of foreign plutonium (of which 21.805 tons is owned by Japan).
Russia (NFCIRC/549/Add.9-23) reported owning 63.3 tons of civilian plutonium, an increase of 0.3 tons from 2019.
In addition to reporting plutonium stocks, some countries also submit data on their civilian HEU:
Germany reported 0.35 tonnes of HEU in research reactor fuel (an increase from 0.32 tonnes in 2019), 0.94 tonnes of HEU in irradiated research reactor fuel, and 0.01 tonnes in the category "HEU held elsewhere" (unchanged).
France declared 5319 kg of HEU (5373 kg in 2019), of which 3785 kg (3836 kg) is unirradiated material - 852 kg (930 kg) of HEU at fuel fabrication or reprocessing plants, 74 kg (51 kg) at civil reactor sites, 2859 kg (2855 kg) at various research facilities. Also declared are 1533 kg (1537 kg) of irradiated HEU - 79 kg (99 kg) at civil reactor sites and 1454 kg (1438 kg) in other locations.
The United Kingdom reported having 738 kg of HEU (734 kg in 2019). Of this amount, 601 kg is unirradiated HEU (598 in 2019): less than 1 kg of unirradiated HEU is stored at the enrichment plants, less than 1 kg is at civil reactor sites, 421 kg - at fuel fabrication facilities, and 180 kg - at other sites (417 kg and 181 kg respectively in 2019). Irradiated HEU is located at civil reactor sites (5 kg) and other sites (132 kg).
The government of Japan released The Status Report of Plutonium Management in Japan - 2020, which details its plutonium holdings. According to the report,
As of the end of 2020, the total amount of separated plutonium both managed within and outside of Japan was approximately 46.1 tons, approximately 8.9 tons of which was held domestically and the rest of approximately 37.2 tons was held abroad.
The amount of domestic storage was approximately 8.9 tons at the end of 2020, the same amount as in the previous year, since there was no domestic consumption or recovery of separated plutonium either.
Of the plutonium stored abroad, 15,411 kg are stored in France (15,435 in 2019) and 21,805 kg - in the United Kingdom (21,180 in 2019). The reprocessing of Japan's spent fuel held in France had been completed by the end of 2017. The change of the amount of plutonium in the United Kingdom appears to reflect the change of the classification of the 0.6 tonnes of the material, rather than a new reprocessing campaign. In 2019 this material was reported as being contained in spent fuel. According to the report,
the stockpile held abroad increased from 36.6 tons to approximately 37.2 tons by adding approximately 0.6 tons of plutonium uncounted as of the end of 2019 among the plutonium separated under the contract with U.K.
In 2019, Japan reported having a total of 45.5 tons of separated plutonium, of which 8.9 tons were held domestically.