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Germany dispatches 326 kg of atomic waste to Russia

Russia imported 268 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from a Soviet-era atomic reactor near Dresden, Germany for processing as part of an international agreement to keep nuclear material from terrorists.

The uranium will be converted at a state-run research center in Podolsk, Moscow region over the next four months to low-enriched reactor fuel for use at power stations, Russia's atomic agency said yesterday. Some 268 kilograms of the material is highly enriched to as much as 36%, far less than bomb-grade, and 58 kilograms is low enriched fuel. Germany's Federal Office for Radiation Protection approved the transport earlier this month as part of the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return agreement between the US, Russia and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, to keep terrorists from gaining materials that could be used to make nuclear devices or dirty bombs.
Yesterday's transfer is the largest under that program, which has been in effect since 2004. Some 220 Saxon police and 100 federal officers accompanied the transporter carrying the waste early yesterday from the Dresden-Rossendorf nuclear facility to Dresden airport, Thomas Geiphner, a spokesman for the city's police force, said in a telephone interview. The convoy detoured to avoid a group of protesters who opposed the handling of the material.

The precautions taken for the transportation of the uranium would have ensured its security even in the event of a plane crash, Reuters reported yesterday, citing Udo Herwig, director of the Rossendorf research institute where the material was stored and prepared for transport. Countries including the Czech Republic and Poland have participated in the program to return fuel to Russia.
Formerly a nuclear-research center under the East German government, the facility at Rossendorf now employs some 650 people who develop new technologies for industry, according to the center's Web site. The Russian research center, NPO Luch, which means „ray” has already taken possession of the fuel, the federal atomic agency said. Russia has now repatriated 433 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Soviet-sponsored reactors. (Bloomberg)