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Soviet-era nuclear warheads provide 10 percent of US electricity

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Nuclear Plant
Nuclear Plant

For the past 20 years, bomb-grade uranium from Russia's decommissioned nuclear weapons have provided 10 percent of all the electricity the US consumes. That fact, NPR reports, is the result of a deal made after the fall of the Soviet Union, which allowed for "20,000 bombs' worth of nuclear material" to be repurposed for American power needs.

The deal was brokered in the early 1990s by Philip Sewell, then-deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Energy. According to Sewell, it was his job to find ways to collaborate with Russia, which had by then crumbled as a global power. The Russian government had been storing their surplus nuclear weapons in abandoned buildings in the countryside, and Sewell saw an opportunity to get rid of them. By 1993, an arrangement was made where 500 tons of nuclear material would be turned into fuel, which in turn would be sold to US power plants. Matthew Bunn, professor at Harvard University, called the deal one of the greatest diplomatic achievements ever.

The final shipment of warhead material arrives at a US storage facility today, to be sold off to power companies in years to come.