- According to the International Panel on Fissile Materials, the global stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in 2010 was roughly 1,475 tons, or enough to make more than 60,000 nuclear weapons. Likewise, the panel estimates the global stockpile of separated plutonium to be about 485 tons. The quality of security over these materials is uneven, varying widely across countries and regions.
- In March 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted that “poorly secured stocks of CBRN [chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials] provide potential source material for terror attacks.” Osama bin Laden may be dead, but the threat of nuclear terrorism remains.
The Impetus for Increased Funding
- Thanks to strong U.S. leadership, America has secured commitments from several countries, including Ukraine and Uzbekistan, to remove and secure their bomb grade nuclear material at an accelerated rate. These commitments increase the urgency and funding needs of the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) nuclear terrorism prevention programs.
The FY 2011 Budget
- In FY 2011, the President requested nearly $2.7 billion for NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account. A critical piece of this request was an increase of over $200 million above the FY 2010 appropriated level for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to accelerate the effort to lock down and eliminate nuclear materials around the world.
- The final FY 2011 CR cut the budget for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account by nearly $370 million (not including rescissions) below the FY 2011 request, including a $123 million (or 22%) cut to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
- Despite these cuts, NNSA officials have stated that the final FY 2011 funding levels will keep the U.S. on track to meet the high-level commitments to remove the highly enriched uranium from Ukraine and Mexico before the next Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul in March 2012. However, other vital activities may be delayed.
The FY 2012 Budget
- In FY 2012, the President requested over $2.5 billion for NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account, including $508 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
- The House passed version of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill cuts the budget for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Account by $428 million below the FY 2012 request, including a $85 million (or 17%) cut to the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. It also cuts $75 million from the administration’s request of $571 million for the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation account’s Second Line of Defense program to install radiation detectors and other equipment to detect the illicit trafficking of weapons of mass destruction at border crossings, airports, and seaports around the world.
- The Senate Appropriations Committee fully funded the FY 2012 request for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.
Proven Record of Success
- Nuclear terrorism is the ultimate preventable catastrophe. If highly enriched uranium and plutonium are adequately secured or eliminated, they cannot be stolen for use in a nuclear device.
- Since April 2009, NNSA has removed over 960 kilograms of highly enriched uranium – enough material for 38 nuclear weapons. NNSA has also removed all highly enriched uranium from six countries, including the last bomb’s worth of material from Libya in 2004. Removing highly enriched uranium from six countries in two years is much faster than one country a year NNSA has averaged in the last 13 years. This is a remarkable return on investment.
- Failure to adequately fund these programs could mean delays in converting dozens of reactors around the world that use bomb-grade highly enriched uranium to use low enriched uranium, compromise our ability to protect and eliminate radioactive materials at universities and hospitals here in the U.S. that could be used in a dirty bomb, and hold up efforts to remove dangerous highly enriched uranium from sites around the globe.
What Should be Done?
- Fully fund the Global Threat Reduction Initiative and the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation program at the FY 2012 requested level. Cuts to threat reduction programs are difficult to comprehend, since these programs counter one of the most serious threats confronting our national security: the threat of nuclear terrorism.