United States

26 Senators Call for Increasing Nuclear Security Funding

By Nickolas Roth

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.

Cutting Too Deep: Nuclear Security Budget Cuts

By Nickolas Roth

Matthew Bunn, William Tobey, and I recently published a report titled Cutting Too Deep: The Obama Administration’s Proposals for Nuclear Security Spending Reductions. The report provides a detailed description of the Obama administration’s funding for nuclear security programs during the four year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material.

Don't Let Nuclear-Security Cooperation with Russia Lapse

Nickolas Roth and Robert GardBy 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.

GAO Report on Radiological Security

By Nickolas Roth

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).

Culp Provides New Details on Nonproliferation Budget Cuts

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.

Tenth Anniversary of Global Threat Reduction Initiative

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).

Conflicting Views on Nuclear Security in House Armed Services Committee

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.

Select Quotes on Nuclear Security Funding from Congressional Hearings

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.

What Kind of Material Needs What Level of Security?

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.

Elbe Group Joint Statement

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. 

Future Prospects for U.S.-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation

By Nickolas Roth
This week’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague was understandably overshadowed by the continuing international response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. One aspect of the Ukraine crisis that deserves more attention is how the current standoff will impact the future of nuclear security cooperation between the United States and Russia.

Eliminating Potential Bomb Material from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly

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.

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