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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

U.S. To Remove 200 Tons of Enriched Uranium from Weapons

08 November 2005

Energy Secretary Bodman says amount enough to make 8,000 nuclear warheads

Washington -- Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced November 7 that the United States will remove 200 metric tons of highly enriched uranium, also known as HEU, from the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

He said this is the single largest amount of nuclear material ever removed from the nuclear weapons stockpile in the history of the U.S. weapons program.  The material that is being removed is the equivalent of 8,000 nuclear warheads, and the related fissile material will be used in the future for nonweapons purposes.

Bodman made his announcement during the annual nonproliferation conference sponsored by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Speaking to more than 750 experts gathered from around the world, the secretary said 160 metric tons of HEU will be repurposed for naval ship propulsion systems.  Another 20 tons will be used for space missions and research reactors, he said, while the remaining 20 tons will be blended down to low enriched uranium for civilian nuclear power reactors or research reactor use.

Bodman described this plan as a triumph for the twin causes of energy development and nonproliferation.  He said it is an example of the type of approach the United States is committed to in the years ahead.

The secretary said the need for peaceful nuclear power all over the globe never has been more apparent while, at the same time, the proliferation threat posed by nuclear materials and technology “has never been more grave.”

He talked at length about recent successful cooperative efforts by the United States and Russia.  Bodman said a significant amount of HEU recently was airlifted from the Czech Technical University in Prague, Czech Republic, to Russia for safe and secure storage there and that final arrangements are being made for the first shipment of returned Soviet-origin spent HEU from Uzbekistan to Russia. (See related article.)

Bodman added that two weeks ago Russian observers watched a simulated exercise in the United States, sponsored by the Energy Department, in which department and FBI officials responded to a scenario in which they had to search for nuclear materials and deal with the detonation of a radiological dispersal device.

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, another conference keynote speaker, said Bodman’s announcement about nuclear materials is positive not only because it means a more assured fuel supply, but also because it means a reduction in the amount of weapons-related material.

Joseph spoke about the ways the Bush administration has sought to address ongoing proliferation concerns “directly in league with our international partners.”  The U.S. strategy that is being pursued involves preventing proliferation, countering proliferation and, if need be, managing the resulting consequences of proliferation.  This strategy is being accomplished through a variety of means, including improved intelligence and greater physical protection of weapons materials, he said.

IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM DISCUSSED, IAEA INSPECTIONS CONTINUE

The under secretary talked in particular about Iran’s steady pursuit of an indigenous nuclear program, and what he described as “a dizzying array of false statements” made by Iranian officials about their development efforts.  Joseph reminded the audience that elements of the Iranian regime have called for Israel and the United States to be wiped off the world map.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was asked about Iran following his keynote address to the conference.  He said he has told Iran that the international community is becoming impatient on the nuclear issue.  He said he has urged Iran to be as transparent as possible about its nuclear plans.  (See related article.)

ElBaradei said the jury is still out on the subject of whether Iran’s program is exclusively designed for peaceful purposes.  He also said there is still work to be done by his agency with respect to Iran.  For example, the director general said his inspectors still have another suspected site to visit.

Even when the IAEA’s work is complete, ElBaradei reminded the audience that there is no such thing as 100 percent guarantees when dealing with verification -- with Iran or any other nation.  But the sooner Iran lets the inspectors finish their work, the better, he said.

PREVENTING WMD PROLIFERATION

ElBaradei also was asked about the A.Q. Khan network, and said that the nuclear proliferation network once run by the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb no longer is operational, nor has he seen any evidence of it resuming.

Preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) also was addressed by Joseph.  He said the two-year-old Proliferation Security Initiative has changed the way nations act in unison to prevent the spread of WMD, WMD technologies and associated delivery systems.  National and international laws can be applied innovatively to stem proliferation, he said, and now the PSI approach is being applied to disrupt the financial networks that might be used to fund WMD proliferation.  (See Proliferation Security Initiative.)

Joseph, who recently visited Libya, also was asked what factors helped convince the Libyans to give up their weapons programs.  He said the Libyans clearly wanted an end to sanctions, and also came to the realization that the existence of WMD programs was costing Libya more than the benefits it accrued.

Coalition military action against Iraq also had a role in Libya’s decision, as well as a PSI success, which involved the interception of the ship BBC China bearing centrifuge parts destined for Libya.  Joseph also said the Libyan government was looking for ways to establish a definable legacy for Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi, and forswearing WMD provided that opportunity.  In addition, Libya had signaled its desire to cooperate with the United States on counterterrorism efforts, he said.

Since Libya gave up WMD, it has experienced a string of economic, political and diplomatic benefits, Joseph said.  The Libyans “did win in this outcome,” he added.

On the Middle East more generally, Joseph said, “We do, of course, support a Middle East that is free of weapons of mass destruction.”

During day two of the conference November 8 there are panel discussions on subjects such as negotiating with North Korea, the utility of nuclear weapons, congressional oversight of these weapons and reforming the nuclear fuel supply.

The prepared remarks of Bodman and Joseph at the nonproliferation conference are available on their respective agencies’ Web sites.

For more information, see Arms Control and Non-Proliferation and the State Department electronic journal Today's Nuclear Equation

More information about the conference is available on Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Web site.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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