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US and Kazakhstan complete secret transfer of Soviet nuclear materials

In the largest nuclear transfer operation ever mounted, US and Kazakh officials moved 11 tons of highly enriched uranium and 3 tons of plutonium some 1,890 miles by rail and road across the Central Asian country.

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Working under extraordinary secrecy, the US and Kazakh governments in the past year have moved nuclear material that could have been used to make more than 770 bombs from a location feared vulnerable to terrorist attack to a new high-security facility.

In the largest such operation ever mounted, US and Kazakh officials transferred 11 tons of highly enriched uranium and 3 tons of plutonium some 1,890 miles by rail and road across the Central Asian country.

The transfer culminated a project spanning three American presidencies that was intended to prevent the material from falling into the wrong hands.

The last of 12 shipments arrived Monday at the new state-of-the-art storage facility in remote northeastern Kazakhstan, near the border with Russia and China. The 13-day journey began at the mothballed BN-350 fast-breeder reactor in the Caspian Sea port of Aktau. McClatchy agreed to withhold the precise location of the storage site for security reasons.

“The most immediate and extreme threat [to international security] is a terrorist acquiring nuclear material,” said Thomas D’Agostino, the head of the US National Nuclear Security Administration, the overseer of the US nuclear arsenal. “This takes one of those pieces, a big chunk, off the table.”

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