Europe-US deal to curb highly enriched uranium use

Mar 26, 2012

Three of the world's top suppliers of medical isotopes on Monday announced plans to work toward phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in the production process under a deal with the United States.

The effort would see France, Belgium, and the Netherlands work toward converting medical isotope production to the use of low-enriched uranium from the current reliance on the more dangerous highly-enriched uranium (HEU) by 2015.

It was unveiled on the sidelines of a summit in South Korea, an effort first launched in 2010 by US President to secure supplies of radioactive material that could potentially be used by terrorists.

"Simply put, we are reducing the availability of highly enriched uranium, a weapons-grade material, and (this) reduces the chances of the material flowing to the wrong hands," US said at a press conference.

Under the arrangement, the United States would supply the three countries with the HEU they need during the conversion process to ensure supplies of the vital isotopes remain unbroken.

are used to diagnose cancers and other diseases in 30 million procedures every year.

But world production is focused on eight research reactors, most of them in Europe, and all but one of which is four decades old or more.

Aside from age-related reactor concerns, worries have grown that the reliance on HEU for isotope production poses a potential nuclear terror threat should the material be obtained by terrorists.

HEU can be used to make an .

Of the eight reactors, the "big five" in Belgium, Canada, France, the Netherlands and South Africa, are responsible for as much as 95 percent of .

The deal aims for conversion by 2015, pending various regulatory approvals, but no details were given on any hard targets.

The reactors produce "irradiated targets", which then go to five main producers of the most commonly used isotope, known as Mo-99, which decays into a radiopharmaceutical known as Tc-99, used once every second in procedures worldwide.

World leaders including Obama on Monday began the two-day summit in the South Korean capital Seoul aimed at curbing the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Leaders or top officials from 53 countries, plus Interpol and three other international organisations, are gathering to assess developments since Obama hosted the first such summit in Washington two years ago.

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Skepticus
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
Yup. All nuclear materials must be bought from those produced from responsible, established nuclear states at market rates. No avoidance of this monopoly is allowed whatsoever. All other aspiring states that are contemplating enriching uranium are potential terrorists or terrorist suppliers, and the necessary undeniable proofs will be found. Sanctions and military actions will be taken. As someone had said: "You can have any color on your car, as long as it is black!"
Kinedryl
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
must be bought from those produced from responsible, established nuclear states at market rates
These rates are result of free market. Only highly enriched uranium falls into restrictions and normal country doesn't need it for anything, but development of nuclear weapons. As someone had said: "You can have any color on your car, until it IS NOT black!"
Skepticus
not rated yet Mar 27, 2012
"These rates are result of free market."
I don't see how where there is no new producers for market competition???