News


DATE=4/23/98
TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT
NUMBER=2-230122
TITLE=GEORGIA URANIUM SHIPMENT (L-ONLY)
BYLINE=SELINA WILLIAMS
DATELINE=TBILISI
CONTENT=
VOICED AT: 

INTRO:  GEORGIAN PHYSICISTS HAVE CONFIRMED THAT A CACHE OF 
URANIUM LEFT A DEFUNCT NUCLEAR REACTOR IN GEORGIA IN THE EARLY 
HOURS OF THE MORNING (THURSDAY).  SELINA WILLIAMS REPORTS FROM 
THE GEORGIAN CAPITAL, TBILISI, THAT A LARGE U-S MILITARY 
TRANSPORT AIRPLANE -- THAT WILL PROBABLY BE USED TO FLY THE 
MATERIALS OUT OF THE COUNTRY -- WAS STANDING BY UNDER HEAVY 
SECURITY AT THE CITY'S AIRPORT (EDS: UPDATE INTO AFTER 
CONFIRMATION THE PLANE HAS DEPARTED).

TEXT:  FIVE KILOGRAMS OF HIGHLY-ENRICHED URANIUM AND SPENT 
NUCLEAR FUEL -- LEFTOVERS FROM AN OLD NUCLEAR RESEARCH REACTOR --
WERE BEING PREPARED FOR REMOVAL FOR AT LEAST A WEEK. 

SOMETIME ON WEDNESDAY THE NUCLEAR MATERIALS WERE PLACED INTO 
SPECIAL PROTECTIVE CONTAINERS WHICH WERE THEN LOADED ONTO LARGE 
TRUCKS.  BY THURSDAY MORNING THE TRUCKS HAD LEFT THE TERRITORY OF
THE REACTOR IN THIS FORMER SOVIET REPUBLIC.

SHUCURY ABRAMIDZE, A NUCLEAR PHYSICIST WHO HAD HELPED WITH THE 
PREPARATIONS TO REMOVE THE MATERIALS, SAID WHEN HE CAME TO WORK 
IN THE MORNING EVERYTHING WAS GONE.  MR. ABRAMIDZE SHOWED 
JOURNALISTS THE EMPTY COOLING PONDS THAT HAD PREVIOUSLY HELD THE 
RADIOACTIVE FUEL RODS.  THE TERRITORY AROUND THE REACTOR WAS NO 
LONGER UNDER THE HEAVY SECURITY THAT HAD BEEN IN PLACE DURING THE
PAST WEEK.

IN AN OPERATION CODE-NAMED "AUBURN ENDEAVOR" -- A TEAM OF 
AMERICAN EXPERTS HAD BEEN FLOWN IN TO HELP THE GEORGIANS PREPARE 
THEIR REMAINING URANIUM FOR REMOVAL FROM THE COUNTRY.

U-S AND INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS ALL AGREED IT WAS IMPORTANT TO 
REMOVE THE MATERIALS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE FROM THIS POTENTIALLY 
VOLATILE CAUCASUS REGION, THAT IS  NOT  FAR FROM IRAN.

SOME EXPERTS SAY THE AMOUNT OF URANIUM WAS TOO SMALL TO BE USED 
TO MAKE A NUCLEAR BOMB, BUT OTHERS DISAGREE.

THE NUCLEAR CARGO WILL BE ACCEPTED BY A REPROCESSING PLANT IN 
SCOTLAND, WHERE IT WILL BE TRANSFORMED INTO MEDICAL ISOTOPES FOR 
THE TREATMENT OF CANCER.

BRITAIN'S PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR HAD OFFERED TO TAKE THE 
NUCLEAR CACHE FROM GEORGIA AFTER RUSSIA WENT BACK ON AN ORIGINAL 
PROMISE TO ACCEPT THE MATERIAL.

THE UNITED STATES WAS INVOLVED IN A SIMILAR OPERATION FOUR YEARS 
AGO TO TRANSPORT MORE THAN A HALF-TON OF BOMB-GRADE URANIUM FROM 
THE FORMER SOVIET REPUBLIC OF KAZAKHSTAN TO A REPROCESSING PLANT 
IN THE U-S STATE OF TENNESSEE.  BUT POTENTIAL OPPOSITION FROM U-S
ENVIRONMENTALISTS PREVENTED THE COUNTRY FROM TAKING ANY MORE 
NUCLEAR MATERIALS. (SIGNED)

NEB/SW/PCF/JO



23-Apr-98 12:28 PM EDT (1628 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America
.