US removes spent nuclear fuel from Calif. site

Nearly 132 pounds of spent nuclear fuel was moved this summer from a shuttered San Diego-area research reactor and taken in convoys to a secure federal facility nearly 1,000 miles away, the National Nuclear Security Administration disclosed Monday.

The operation involved packing the enriched uranium in special shipping casks and was part of federal effort to secure nuclear material around the world within four years, the NNSA said in a press release.

The agency, which is part of the Department of Energy, did not identify the reactor site or the facility where the enriched uranium was taken.

NNSA spokesman Damien Lavera said that for operational security reasons he could not provide information beyond what was in the release.

Documents on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, however, show plans for a storage facility at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory to receive fuel from two San Diego-area General Atomics reactors, including one first licensed in 1958. An e-mail request for company comment was pending.

The NNSA said the fuel was taken from a reactor built in the late 1950s in an area that was remote and isolated at the time but is now surrounded by San Diego's suburbs. The reactor operated for nearly 40 years before being permanently shut down and it is now scheduled for decommissioning.

Three shipments of highly enriched uranium and low enriched uranium were transported during a three-week period in August and September, the agency said.

The move involved the DOE as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"This is a major accomplishment that exemplifies our commitment to work across the federal government and with the private sector to enhance nuclear security here at home and around the globe," Thomas P. D'Agostino, DOE undersecretary for nuclear security and NNSA administrator.