Russia agrees to take 2.3 tons Serbian nuclear reactor waste

Russia agreed to take 2.3 metric tons of spent fuel from a decommissioned Serbian nuclear reactor, in a measure aimed at ensuring the waste does not end up in terrorist hands, a Serbian official said Monday.

A US$10 million (Ђ7.8 million) deal to the transport about 8,000 spent fuel rods from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences in Vinca, just outside Belgrade, and Russia was signed last week in Vienna, Austria, at an International Atomic Energy Agency conference, Serbia's Science Minister Aleksandar Popovic said.

The rods are varying degrees of enrichment a potential dirty bomb material. A recent IAEA inspection of the Vinca facility has discovered that spent fuel was kept in poorly guarded storage areas, triggering fears that they could be a potential theft targets for the terrorists.

For would-be terrorists, "it's almost like a candy store," Mike Durst, the IAEA's point man working to strip Vinca of its attraction to nuclear thieves, said recently.

Popovic said that the transport and the packing of the fuel made possible by the IAEA-collected international donations will be completed by the end of 2008.

The Vinca reactor was built with Russian technology in 1959 and shut down in 2002.

About 48 kilograms (100 pounds) of weapons-grade fuel was sent to Russia from Vinca in 2002 when Washington, Moscow and Belgrade mounted a joint operation to remove it, reports AP.

The fuel enough to make at least two simple nuclear warheads was trucked in tight security from Vinca to Belgrade airport and onward to a Russian government plant about 470 miles (760 kilometers) east of Moscow.