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Ukraine reduces stock of dangerous uranium

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: Obama applauds Ukrainian leadership in securing vulnerable nuclear material
  • Ukraine shipped 50 kilograms of highly enriched uranium to Russia in December
  • Ukraine has pledged to eliminate its entire supply over the next two years
  • The shipment is part of a U.S.-led nuclear non-proliferation effort

(CNN) -- The U.S. Energy Department announced Friday the shipment of 50 kilograms -- or 111 pounds -- of highly enriched uranium from Ukraine to Russia.

The removal of the uranium, which can be used in nuclear weapons, is part of a public commitment made by Ukraine at the Nuclear Security Summit in April to get rid of its entire supply within the next two years.

"This action brings us all one step closer to securing all vulnerable nuclear materials," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a written statement.

It represents "continued Ukrainian leadership in making sure that nuclear weapons never fall into the hands of a terrorist, and working toward a world without nuclear weapons."

The removal of the uranium to Russia required multiple aircraft shipments over the last half of December, according to the Energy Department statement.

In exchange for the highly enriched uranium, the United States supplied Ukraine with less dangerous low enriched uranium. Washington also delivered new safety equipment to Ukraine and agreed, along with Russia, to assist in the construction of a new neutron source facility at Ukraine's Kharkiv Institute.

Ukraine, according to the Energy Department, was one of the first nations to join the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

From 1994 to 1996, according to a White House fact sheet released in April, Ukraine eliminated all of its intercontinental ballistic missile silos and 5,000 nuclear munitions, including 2,000 strategic-range munitions, long-range cruise missiles and strategic bombers, that remained on its territory following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has now facilitated with the disposition of more than 3,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium -- enough material to construct more than 120 nuclear weapons, according to the statement released Friday.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report