The U.S.-Russian HEU Agreement: A Modern Day Example of Swords Into Plowshares

  • Philip G. Sewell


After four decades and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the buildup of nuclear weapons, the United States and the Russian Federation have taken a bold step to convert deadly instruments of the Cold War into peaceful and productive resources. The United States and Russia are implementing a historic agreement whereby the United States is purchasing material recovered from dismantled Soviet weapons for use in commercial electricity production. By purchasing Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU), the United States is helping to ensure that it will be used solely for peaceful purposes.

Under the agreement, approximately 500 metric tons of HEU removed from the equivalent of more that 22,000 nuclear warheads from the former Soviet Union will be converted to low enriched uranium (LEU) suitable for commercial power reactor fuel. Once HEU is transformed into LEU, it becomes useless for nuclear weapons. Swords are being transformed into plowshares.

On June 23, 1995, 24 metric tons of low enriched uranium arrived at the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC) facility in Portsmouth, Ohio. This was the first of many shipments under a $12 billion, 20-year contract between USEC, serving as executive agent for the Unites States government, and Techsnabexport, executive agent for the Ministry of Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation.

In addition to the national security and nonproliferation benefits, the U.S. purchase of Russian HEU is producing a valuable commodity that will be sold in the marketplace enabling some of the costs of disarmament to be recovered. This agreement is also pumping hard currency into a cash-starved Russia that will greatly help its transition to a market-based economy. Russia has committed to use a portion of proceeds from the sale of LEU derived from HEU for conversion of defense enterprises, upgrading the safety of its nuclear power plants and environmental cleanup. USEC will gradually phase the material into its supply mix for sale to the enrichment market.

The world’s leading supplier of enrichment services, USEC provides uranium enrichment services to more than 60 U.S. and foreign electric utilities, and as such, is uniquely situated to provide a market outlet for the Russian LEU while still guaranteeing customers a reliable, quality product at competitive prices.

USEC is pleased to perform this vital role in helping to carry out the national commitment to ensure that nuclear energy is used for peaceful and constructive purposes.


Nuclear Weapon Natural Uranium Enrich Uranium Environmental Cleanup Executive Agent 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip G. Sewell
    • 1
  1. 1.Corporate Development United States Enrichment CorporationTwo Democracy CenterBethesda

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