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Swedish plutonium to the United States

den 27 mars 2012

Carl Bildt, the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, communicated today during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul that plutonium from previous research and development work conducted in Sweden has been transferred to the United States for disposition within the framework of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, an American programme whose aim is to identify, secure and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials. The Swedish Government has decided to grant an export licence following a statement of views from the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

On 2 February 2012, the Swedish Government took the decision to grant AB SVAFO authorisation to export 3.3 kilograms of plutonium and approximately 9 kilograms of natural and depleted uranium to the United States for disposition. Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt communicated this decision today during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.

The exported material originated from previous government research and development work conducted in Sweden. The export was performed within the framework of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), an American non-proliferation programme whose aim is to secure and protect high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials. The recipient is the U.S. government through the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority reviewed AB SVAFO’s application and took the decision on 15 December 2011 to refer the matter to the Swedish Government for a final decision.
“We concluded that the export application could be granted on the basis of Sweden's international commitments within the area of nuclear non-proliferation, in other words the obligations undertaken by Sweden to prevent the material from ending up in the wrong hands,” says Director Johan Anderberg of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.
“However, we were also of the opinion that the Government should examine the matter since Sweden has long held the position that all countries should take care of their own residual products from nuclear activities and that participation in GTRI implies that this kind of material is exported to another state for continued storage while awaiting future disposition.”

As far as concerns circumstances in Sweden, plutonium is a relatively unique material that imposes high demands on security measures to prevent it from ending up in the wrong hands. For these security reasons, the matter was kept confidential during the review as well as during the material’s handling and shipment.

For more information, please contact: Lars Hildingsson, Government Specialist, or Johan Anderberg, Director. Both can be reached via the Authority’s press officer on call: Tel. +46 8 799 40 20.

Facts about the application
On 16 September 2011, AB SVAFO submitted an application to the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority concerning the export of nuclear material to the United States.

Under the Ordinance concerning the control of dual-use items and technical assistance (2000:1217), it is the task of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority to consider matters relating to authorisation to export nuclear material. After having examined AB SVAFO's application, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority concluded that the provisions contained in Council Regulation (EC) No 428/2009 do not constitute an impediment to exporting the nuclear material in question to the United States. 

The Regulation governs exports of products from the European Union that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear explosive devices. For this reason, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority recommended granting approval of the application. At the same time during its processing of the matter, the Authority determined that the matter was of such principle importance that it must be forwarded to the Swedish Government for final decision-making.
The application includes guarantees concerning the end-use, implying that the material may only be used for peaceful purposes and not exported to a third country in compliance with U.S. commitments in the area of nuclear non-proliferation.

The Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) is a programme that was set up on the initiative of the United States. Its aim is to secure and protect high-risk, vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials and to prevent their being used to manufacture nuclear explosive devices and being used in acts of terrorism.
Nuclear non-proliferation activities relate to obligations undertaken by Sweden for the purpose of preventing this material from being used to produce nuclear charges and being used for acts of terrorism.

Facts about the material
Studsvik has been the storage site of the 3.3 kilograms of plutonium since the 1970s. This material was previously used in research and development work conducted by the Swedish government. Most of the material was generated in Sweden and was primarily produced from fuel from the Ågesta reactor. This fuel was reprocessed in Mol, Belgium in 1969. Following a Government decision, AB SVAFO has been in charge of the material under the Act on Nuclear Activities since 1993 and is consequently obliged to take the measures needed for the material’s safe management and disposal. The plutonium has been under international safeguards through both the IAEA and the European Commission.


Last updated 2012-03-27