Nuclear Terrorism

Expert perspectives on nuclear terrorism issues, including reprocessing, nonproliferation, and the security risks posed by fissile materials.


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Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Will Congress Reject the Administration’s New Plan to Dispose of Excess Plutonium?

, Washington representative and senior analyst

After several years and multiple studies, the Obama administration—led by the Department of Energy (DOE)—finally has a new plan to get rid of the excess plutonium generated by the U.S. nuclear weapons program: dilute the fissile material with non-radioactive materials and dispose of it in a geological repository. Read more >

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Bad science: Russian objections to US plutonium proposal not a reason to keep MOX

, Washington representative and senior analyst

President Putin recently made some alarming statements about U.S. plans to cancel the current American approach to disposing of excess plutonium. His comments are important because the United States and Russia have an agreement to each dispose of 34 tons of excess plutonium generated by the two countries’ nuclear weapons programs. The Russian president suggested that the approach proposed by the Obama administration, to dilute the plutonium and dispose of it in a geological repository, was unsatisfactory and could damage U.S.-Russian relations. Read more >

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The Perfect Gift for the Nuclear Security Summit

, senior scientist

As the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit convenes today, here’s an idea for a great parting gift that President Obama can offer to the international community. The United States possesses a unique asset that could be used to train nuclear security guards in a realistic setting: the partially built Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility at the U.S. government’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina. Using this complex as an international training center would help strengthen global nuclear security and give new life to a facility that otherwise appears destined for the scrap heap. Read more >

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Quick Take on the FY 2017 NNSA Budget Request

, Washington representative and senior analyst

Weapons Program Budgets Up, Nonproliferation Budget Down

On February 9, the Obama administration unveiled the Fiscal Year 2017 budget request, its final annual submission to Congress of this kind. In recent years, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the agency responsible for maintaining the country’s nuclear weapons and for helping to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, has seen its top-line budget increase even as government spending as a whole remains tightly constrained.

The FY 2017 request continues that trend, with a total request of $12.9 billion for the NNSA, compared to the $12.5 billion provided in FY 2016. Read more >

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Independent Report Confirms that Downblending and Geologic Disposal is Best Option for Plutonium

, senior scientist

Today, UCS is releasing the Phase 2 report of the “Plutonium Disposition Options Independent Assessment” carried out by the Aerospace Corporation. This report, dated August 20, 2015, but only now becoming public, is the second part of a congressionally mandated independent review of the Plutonium Working Group (PWG) report that was released by the Department of Energy in 2014. The PWG was charged with reviewing the options for disposing of tens of tons of plutonium left over from the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

The Phase 1 Aerospace report, which was delivered to Congress in April of this year, analyzed two of the plutonium disposition options that had been studied by the PWG: the MOX fuel option, which is the current baseline, and the “downblend and disposal” option. Read more >

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