Fuel from Soviet warheads powered local homes

WASHINGTON – Recycled nuclear fuel from Soviet-era warheads helped keep the lights on in Virginia homes during the past two decades.

The fuel came from a program known as Megatons to Megawatts, which ended this month after 20 years.

The uranium from 20,000 Russian nukes was converted into low-enriched uranium that was then used to produce electricity at power plants across the country, including two in Virginia.

U.S. Enrichment Corporation, which supplies enriched uranium fuel to nuclear power plants, didn’t tell Dominion and other power companies how much of this uranium they were using until after the program ended, says Richard Zuercher, Nuclear Fleet Communications manager for Dominion Virginia Power.

“The unique thing about this program was that our customers helped get rid of this material that was in the world just by the normal use of electricity,” Zuercher says.

The uranium from roughly 429 warheads has been used at Dominion’s four nuclear power plants including North Anna in central Virginia and Surry in Tidewater, Zuercher says.

“The concept was to take uranium used for mass destruction and essentially converting it into a low enriched form which typically what we use in our power plants in the United States,” Zuercher says.

The program was conceived during the first Bush administration and implemented during the Clinton administration, he says.

The final shipment of fuel arrived in Baltimore earlier this month. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz called the program one of the most successful nuclear nonproliferation partnerships ever undertaken.

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