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Weapons Grade Uranium Removed from Da Lat

A joint American and Russian program has removed the last remaining, highly enriched uranium from Da Lat’s nuclear research facilities.

Over the last 6 years, the US and Russia have shipped out 35 pounds of highly enriched uranium, which officials feared could have fallen into the wrong hands and used as material for a nuclear weapon.

Vietnam has operated a nuclear reactor on-and-off since 1963 when the Americans helped create the Da lat Nuclear Research Institute. There, a General Atomics-built TRIGA-Mark II reactor was installed and operated until the outbreak of the American War when it was dismantled.

Following reunification, the government founded the Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission (VAEC) to explore the use of nuclear materials for socioeconomic development. In 1980, with the help of the Soviet Union the reactor was rebuilt and upgraded.

The removal makes Vietnam the 11th country from which all highly enriched uranium has been removed in the last four years.

Analysts fear that radical groups could obtain nuclear material from civilian research sites which are typically less secure than their military counterparts.

"With this accomplishment (in Vietnam), we will have removed nearly all highly enriched uranium from Southeast Asia but highly enriched uranium still exists in too many places where there are viable alternatives." U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

The material, which will be taken to Russia, will be downblended into low-enriched uranium to fuel power reactors.

This is by no means the end of the nuclear age for Vietnam. The country plans to use nuclear technology as the foundation for its revamped energy strategy to address skyrocketing demand. 

Check out this article, 100 hours in Vietnam’s sole nuclear reactor for a closer look at the reactor when it was still in operation.

[NBC News]

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