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US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said Monday that up to 200 tonnes of highly enriched uranium would be removed from the US weapons stockpile to prepare the material for use in the navy, space programs and civilian sectors.
The 200 tonnes of highly enriched uranium (HEU) represents the "largest amount ever removed" and is the equivalent of 8,000 nuclear warheads, Bodman said.
According to the plan, about 160 tonnes of HEU will be provided to the US Navy, for use in naval ship power propulsion and some 20 tonnes will be reserved for space and research reactors.
A final 20 tonnes will be down-blended, or diluted, to low enriched uranium for eventual use in civilian nuclear power reactors and research reactors, he said. Downblending eliminates the uranium's potential usefulness to terrorists.
"This 20 tonnes will help extend the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy," he said.
The removal of the HEU from the weapons stockpile will occur in the coming decades, the energy department said in a statement.
"The project represents the largest amount of special nuclear material to be removed from the stockpile in the history of the nuclear weapons program," the energy department said.
"The president's decision to reduce the nuclear weapons stockpile by nearly half -- to the smallest size since the (President Dwight) Eisenhower administration -- enables us to dispose of a significant amount of weapons-grade uranium," Bodman said in the statement.
"This is material that will never again be a part of a nuclear weapon."