BELGRADE, Serbia, April 16 (UPI) -- The United Nations says a deal was signed to close down Serbia's Vinca reactor, a site many feared would become a source of terrorist nuclear proliferation.
Officials say the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency and the Serbian government has inked a deal with the European Commission that establishes an $8.63 million framework to decommission the Vinca reactor outside of Belgrade. Despite overcoming the funding hurdle, officials say $25 million more is still needed to complete the project.
Defense officials have raised concerns about terrorism and proliferation regarding the post-Soviet nuclear reactor in Serbia where dangerous spent fuel resides. The high-enriched uranium could be converted to weapons-grade material, which in the wrong hands could be disastrous. If the project is fully funded, the fuel would be repatriated to Russia.
"The EC support was absolutely crucial to the life of the program, but we have quite a ways to go to find the remaining $25 million for the project," John Kelly, IAEA special program manager for the Vinca Institute nuclear decommissioning, said in a statement.
"The EC contribution serves as a great example and encourages other potential donors to invest in an important and successful project. With radioactive waste, disused sources, and leaking spent fuel that's almost 45 years old, the Vinca site presents huge radiological challenges."