Ukraine ships nuclear material in Obama deal

Ukraine has sent a "significant portion" of its highly enriched uranium stock to Russia, in line with a deal with the United States aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism.

Kiev, which gave up the nuclear weapons it inherited when the Soviet Union collapsed, agreed with Washington in April to get rid of the stocks entirely by 2012, and convert its civilian nuclear research facilities to operate with low enriched uranium fuel.

"Ukraine has fulfilled its obligations by removing a significant portion of these nuclear materials," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "In line with US obligations…Ukraine has received an equivalent amount of low enriched uranium for the needs of… scientific and research facilities."

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A nuclear summit hosted by US President Barack Obama in April promised to lock down the world's remaining supplies of highly enriched uranium within four years.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration said 50kg of uranium had been removed from three sites in Ukraine. Some of the material is likely to be stored on US soil.

"The removal of this highly enriched uranium from Ukraine is a major milestone that brings us one step closer to achieving Mr Obama's goal of securing all nuclear material around the world within four years," NNSA administrator Thomas D'Agostino said.

John Kelly, special programme manager for fuel repatriation at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said there had been three shipments to Russia by aircraft from three research reactors in Ukraine in the past nine days or so.