LEU for U.S. tritium: rethinking agreements
AtomInfo.Ru, PUBLISHED 18.12.2014
See also LEU for U.S. tritium: DoE plans.
The threat of the LEU shortages for tritium production could push the United States not to revise but to rethink international agreements involving the United States, which are imposing restrictions on the use of enriched uranium produced using imported technology.
The auditors claim that the DoE and the US State Department has not yet took up discussion of this topic seriously, but in the future this may change.
The report of the auditors noted an interesting point. An agreement with the Australians to acquire SILEX technology has a public interpretation made by the US president in a message to Congress, just explaining that the uranium enriched in the United States on this technology can not be used for tritium production for military purposes.
At the same time, similar public interpretation of agreements that allow URENCO and AREVA to construct the enrichment plants on the territory of the United States are absent. Only DoE said about this limitation.
Moreover, the auditors have conducted their own analysis of these two agreements and did not find the explicit ban on the use of the LEU for the tritium production.
According to the auditors, the DoE interprets the agreement "through the lens of US non-proliferation objectives" and, therefore, prohibits itself the use of LEU from European factories in the United States in the tritium program.
What consequences will result from the removal of the self-restraint? In other words, what would happen if the Americans will produce tritium using LEU, which has been obtained, for example, from the URENCO USA plant?
Nonproliferation experts, in particular, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), fear of a domino effect. It would set a precedent and a thin line between civilian and military LEU will be even more blurred. The countries referring to the actions of Washington will buy the LEU in the open market for its military programs.
In turn, the State Department is afraid of the following development. In this case, the suspected countries, which acquiring the LEU from the US companies, might use it for the military programs referring to the US example.
In addition, the United States as a nation with nuclear weapons can not get on a dependence on imports, the State Department is confident.
In this context it is very interesting to look at the position of the URENCO. According to the auditors, the European company does not believe that the LEU from URENCO USA can not be used for tritium production.
The company made a corresponding analysis before the conclusion of contracts for the supply of the enriched uranium to the TVA plants. The documents available for auditors contain a clear conclusion - the LEU from URENCO USA can be used on any unit, operated by TVA, including the unit(s), where the tritium is produced.
However, the view of private companies can not outweigh the opinion of public authorities when it comes to the matters of international commitments on non-proliferation regime. However, if Washington's opinion will change to the opposite, the URENCO will not mind.
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