Profile of World Uranium Enrichment Programs - 2007

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It is generally agreed that the most difficult step in building a nuclear weapon is acquiring weapons grade fissile material, either plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU). Plutonium is produced in a nuclear reactor, while HEU is produced using a uranium enrichment process. Enrichment is also an important step in the civil nuclear fuel cycle, in producing low enriched uranium (LEU) for use in fuel for nuclear reactors. However, the same equipment used to produce LEU for nuclear fuel can also be used to produce HEU for weapons. Safeguards at an enrichment plant are the array of assurances and verification ... continued below

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Laughter, Mark D November 1, 2007.

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It is generally agreed that the most difficult step in building a nuclear weapon is acquiring weapons grade fissile material, either plutonium or highly enriched uranium (HEU). Plutonium is produced in a nuclear reactor, while HEU is produced using a uranium enrichment process. Enrichment is also an important step in the civil nuclear fuel cycle, in producing low enriched uranium (LEU) for use in fuel for nuclear reactors. However, the same equipment used to produce LEU for nuclear fuel can also be used to produce HEU for weapons. Safeguards at an enrichment plant are the array of assurances and verification techniques that ensure uranium is only enriched to LEU, no undeclared LEU is produced, and no uranium is enriched to HEU or secretly diverted. There are several techniques for enriching uranium. The two most prevalent are gaseous diffusion, which uses older technology and requires a lot of energy, and gas centrifuge separation, which uses more advanced technology and is more energy efficient. Gaseous diffusion plants (GDPs) provide about 40% of current world enrichment capacity, but are being phased out as newer gas centrifuge enrichment plants (GCEPs) are constructed. Estimates of current and future enrichment capacity are always approximate, due to the constant upgrades, expansions, and shutdowns occurring at enrichment plants, largely determined by economic interests. Currently, the world enrichment capacity is approximately 53 million kg-separative work units (SWU) per year, with 22 million in gaseous diffusion and 31 million in gas centrifuge plants. Another 23 million SWU/year of capacity are under construction or planned for the near future, almost entirely using gas centrifuge separation. Other less-efficient techniques have also been used in the past, including electromagnetic and aerodynamic separations, but these are considered obsolete, at least from a commercial perspective. Laser isotope separation shows promise as a possible enrichment technique of the future, but has yet to be demonstrated commercially. In the early 1980s, six countries developing gas centrifuge technology (United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, and Australia) along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) began developing effective safeguards techniques for GCEPs. This effort was known as the Hexapartite Safeguards Project (HSP). The HSP had the goal of maximizing safeguards effectiveness while minimizing the cost to the operator and inspectorate, and adopted several recommendations, such as the acceptance of limited-frequency unannounced access (LFUA) inspections in cascade halls, and the use of nondestructive assay (NDA) measurements and tamper-indicating seals. While only the HSP participants initially committed to implementing all the measures of the approach, it has been used as a model for the safeguards applied to GCEPs in additional states. This report provides a snapshot overview of world enrichment capacity in 2007, including profiles of the uranium enrichment programs of individual states. It is based on open-source information, which is dependent on unclassified sources and may therefore not reflect the most recent developments. In addition, it briefly describes some of the safeguards techniques being used at various enrichment plants, including implementation of HSP recommendations.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/TM-2007/193
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/932144 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 932144
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc897013

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • November 1, 2007

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 27, 2016, 1:39 a.m.

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  • Oct. 31, 2016, 7:40 p.m.

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Laughter, Mark D. Profile of World Uranium Enrichment Programs - 2007, report, November 1, 2007; [Tennessee]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc897013/: accessed April 26, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.