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HKS Authors

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James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy


Accelerating and expanding the downblending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) beyond the current 500-ton U.S.-Russian HEU Purchase Agreement would have significant security benefits. Russia will still have large quantities of HEU not needed for military purposes after 500 tons of HEU has been blended to low-enriched uranium (LEU). But no agreement to expand and accelerate the downblending of Russian or U.S. excess HEU will succeed unless it is structured in a way that serves the interests of all sides. Russia has made clear that it has no interest in extending the HEU Purchase Agreement on its current terms. This paper outlines key Russian, U.S., and industry interests relating to expanded and accelerated HEU downblending. It then explores a variety of approaches under which accelerating and expanding the downblending of HEU could serve Russia’s strategic goals of expanded nuclear construction for domestic use and export, and expanded nuclear fuel market share, while providing billions of dollars in additional revenue. Some of these approaches could also be structured to protect U.S. interests in maintaining a robust domestic enrichment industry, and industry interests in maintaining predictable supplies at prices sufficient to maintain investment in long-term capacity for uranium mining and enrichment. Despite the recent U.S.-Russian accord on amending the suspension agreement, offering Russia extensive access to the U.S. market without any linkage to blending additional HEU, there are still some options for the U.S. government to increase Russia’s incentives to blend down additional HEU.


Bunn, Matthew. "Expanded and Accelerated HEU Downblending: Designing Options to Serve the Interests of All Parties." Paper for Institute for Nuclear Materials Management 49th Annual Meeting, Nashville, July 13-17, 2008.