By Alicia Sanders-Zakre
Some U.S. highly enriched uranium (HEU), originally intended to be used in France to manufacture fuel for Belgium’s BR-2 research reactor, instead will be used for commercial isotope production at the Institute for Radioelements (IRE) facility in Belgium. On April 3, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and Arms Control issued a change of end-use notice for a 2010 export license covering 93.5 kilograms of HEU. The BR-2 reactor switched fuel providers last year and no longer needs all the U.S.-supplied HEU. Some experts raised concerns that the availability of excess weapons-grade uranium in Europe will slow the Belgian facility’s already gradual transition to low-enriched uranium (LEU) targets for isotope production. “One danger of exporting large amounts of HEU is that it can create overseas surpluses of U.S. HEU that may be used to undermine U.S. nonproliferation policy,” said Alan Kuperman, an associate professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin in an April 14 email to Arms Control Today. Kuperman urged the United States to tell the IRE facility that it will limit future HEU exports in order to encourage the facility’s complete conversion to LEU.