Yesterday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released a letter signed by 26 senators asking the Obama Administration to increase funding for nonproliferation and nuclear security programs. In the letter, which was sent last week to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, the bipartisan group of senators raised concern regarding cuts to nuclear security programs over the past several years and requested that the Obama administration “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs” in its upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request, expected to be released early in 2015. Read more about 26 Senators Call for Increasing Nuclear Security Funding
By Nickolas Roth and Robert Gard Republicans and Democrats alike have traditionally understood that investing in nuclear security is a small price to pay compared with the devastating economic, political and social costs of nuclear terrorism. That’s why U.S. cooperation with Russia and other countries to secure vulnerable nuclear material has enjoyed bipartisan support. Read more about Don't Let Nuclear-Security Cooperation with Russia Lapse
Recently, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing that highlighted some truly alarming information about the status of radiological security in the United States. The hearing began with a description from Senator Carper (D-DE) of the Boston marathon bomb attacks. He then speculated on the hypothetical consequences of the use of a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) or “dirty bomb” (interestingly, an old high-activity Cs-137 source was removed from Massachusetts General Hospital after the bombing). Read more about GAO Report on Radiological Security
By Nickolas Roth Despite making reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism one of his signature issues, President Obama has proposed budget cuts that would cause delays in core nuclear security programs. David Culp, who works for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, recently wrote an excellent article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that addresses this issue and provides interesting new details. Read more about Culp Provides New Details on Nonproliferation Budget Cuts
By Nickolas Roth September 11, 2001 convinced decision-makers in Washington that terrorists were capable of carrying out catastrophic attacks on the United States. The idea that an individual or group could make a bomb from nuclear or radiological material was no longer just an outlandish scenario, but a realistic threat that needed to be addressed. Ten years ago this week, the Bush administration responded to that threat by establishing the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).Read more about Tenth Anniversary of Global Threat Reduction Initiative
By Nickolas Roth Funding U.S. programs that enhance nuclear security has been a controversial issue this year in Congress. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) recently released its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. The results are a mixed bag on the nuclear security front. The committee proposes picking up some of the slack the Obama administration left for nonproliferation programs — increasing the administration’s request by $10 million overall — but it also slashed a key nuclear security effort and called for putting all nuclear security cooperation with Russia on hold.Read more about Conflicting Views on Nuclear Security in House Armed Services Committee
By Nickolas Roth The Obama administration has proposed significant cuts to nuclear security programs. The House Armed Services Committee bill would reduce the scale of the cuts for one nuclear security program (the Global Threat Reduction Initiative) while aggressively slashing another (International Material Protection and Cooperation); the debate over nuclear security spending will likely continue throughout the year. I’ve pulled some select quotes from Congressional hearings on nuclear security, which I plan to update as needed. Read more about Select Quotes on Nuclear Security Funding from Congressional Hearings
In August of 2002, the United States – assisted by a gift from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, when it turned out no U.S. agency had money that was not blocked from doing what was needed – helped airlift 48 kilograms of 80% enriched highly enriched uranium out of the Vinca nuclear research institute in Serbia. A force of 1,200 armed troops guarded the shipment as it moved from the lab to the airport. Under international rules, this was dangerous “Category I” material requiring the highest level of security. But under Department of Energy (DOE) rules for categorizing nuclear material, if the same material had been at a DOE site, it would have been considered “Category III” material requiring hardly any security.
By Brigadier General Kevin Ryan (ret.) Recognizing that the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea has shuttered communication between the American and Russian governments, a group of senior American and Russian former military and intelligence officers met quietly in Morocco from 19 to 22 March to ask each other whether there remain any areas where the two nations should continue joint efforts. The answer, given in a joint statement at the end of the meeting, was yes. Read more about Elbe Group Joint Statement
On April 2nd, 2014 Belfer Center experts Gary Samore and Matthew Bunn hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) to discuss nuclear negotiations with Iran, nuclear security issues, and all things weapons of mass destruction. Click here to read their Reddit AMA.
By Matthew Bunn Today, the United States and Japan announced that Japan would eliminate all the plutonium and highly-enriched uranium at its Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) at Tokai-mura. This is a tremendous step forward for nuclear security; for terrorists, this would be some of the best material that exists in any non-nuclear-weapon state. The material includes 331 kilograms of plutonium, most of it weapons-grade, and 214.5 kilograms of weapons-grade HEU. (The FCA also includes over a ton of material just at the 20 percent U-235 mark that defines HEU.) The weapons-grade HEU is enough for four simple terrorist “gun-type” bombs or a larger number of trickier-to-build implosion bombs. The plutonium amounts to more than 40 bombs worth of material. Read more about Eliminating Potential Bomb Material from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly
By Matthew Bunn At the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, the United States led the charge in urging states to ratify key nuclear security related treaties. Nearly four years later, we’re still waiting for the United States to take its own advice. This undermines US nuclear security leadership.