U.S. Wants to Intensify Global Nuclear Security Efforts
Research reactors targeted by new program, energy
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham has announced a global
initiative to intensify and accelerate efforts aimed at preventing
high-risk nuclear and radiological materials from falling into
the hands of terrorists or rogue states.
In May 26 remarks at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
in Vienna, Austria, Abraham said that the program, called the Global
Threat Reduction Initiative, is designed to address the threat
posed by the entire range of nuclear materials.
-- accelerating the repatriation of Russian-origin, high-enriched
uranium fuel and both Russian- and U.S.-origin spent fuel;
-- converting the cores of civilian research reactors that use
high-enriched uranium to use low-enriched uranium instead; and
-- identifying and securing equipment not covered by existing
threat reduction efforts.
Abraham said that despite progress made by the United States and
Russia in improving the security of nuclear materials, more comprehensive
and urgent efforts are needed to respond to emerging and evolving
He said that a significant amount of such materials in research
reactors and other equipment around the world still poses a proliferation
challenge. Abraham noted that more than 200 research reactors are
close to the end of their lifespans, and an additional 400 have
already been shut down or decommissioned.
The United States and other countries are concerned that terrorists
may steal or acquire high-enriched uranium or spent nuclear reactor
fuel from a research or other facility to produce a nuclear bomb
or, more likely, a "dirty" bomb -- a device that disperses radioactive
"We are forced to assume that rogue states and terrorists, in
concert with for-profit proliferators, will act vigorously to achieve
their ends," he said.
Abraham said that more money and international cooperation will
be required to meet this challenge and complete the job.
He said that international collaboration will be critical in regard
to non-Russian and non-U.S. materials -- materials located beyond
the reach of the two countries and materials posing a threat that
can be effectively addressed only multilaterally.
The energy secretary called on other countries to join the program
and participate in a related conference this fall.
He said that a new office will be established in his department
to consolidate and accelerate efforts to reduce the threat posed
by nuclear materials and to develop, in collaboration with other
agencies, a diplomatic strategy to secure, remove or eliminate
Following is the text of Abraham's remarks as prepared for delivery:
Department of Energy
May 26, 2004
International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna
Remarks prepared for Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham
Thank you, [IAEA] Director General [Mohamed] ElBaradei.
Today, I have a special message for the men and women on your
staff, many of whom are in the room today, and for the delegates
and representatives to this body.
Your efforts are crucial to international safety and security
in a world that grows ever more dangerous each day. I know that
it often may seem like thankless work -- certainly it is often
But believe me when I say that you labor on the frontlines of
the 21st century's greatest conflict --- a conflict between the
civilized nations of the earth, and the terrorists and terrorist
states that would use devastating technologies to destroy them.
Tens of millions of people in New York, Rome, Geneva, Tokyo, Sydney,
London, and other spots all over the globe will sleep soundly tonight
because people like you and others who work on these challenges
are tireless in their efforts. They rest assured that very capable
men and women are on the job, thwarting the malignant designs of
very bad people.
My government takes your mission very seriously. It is our mission
as well. We thank you, and we pledge our determination and resources
to help you go about the business of making the world a safer place.
Saying you want to make the world a safer place is simple. The
challenge of actually doing that is the hard part. And that challenge
is growing increasingly complicated in a world where technology
and science make constant advances ... and where terrorists and
rogue states look to use these advances for nefarious purposes.
Where one hundred years ago, authorities had to worry about the
anarchist placing a bomb in the downtown square ... now we must
worry about the terrorist who places that bomb in the square, but
packed with radiological material.
Whereas once we had to worry about the madman whose ambition,
within the realm of possibility, was to assassinate a world leader
... worry about the madmen whose ambition is to destroy a world
The recent revelations of the complex network established by [Pakistani
scientist] A.Q. Khan give startling scope to the nonproliferation
challenge we collectively face. Coupled with the horrific attacks
of September 11, 2001, Bali, and, most recently, Madrid, we are
forced to assume that rogue states and terrorists, in concert with
for-profit proliferators, will act vigorously to achieve their
The large quantities of uncontrolled or lightly controlled nuclear
and radiological material of potential use in nuclear weapons or
radiological dispersion devices have added an entirely new dimension
to this worldwide threat. Over 200 of the world's research reactors
are nearing the end of their lifespans. Four hundred reactors have
already shut down or been decommissioned, creating large quantities
of spent fuel and radiological sources that must be secured and/or
Our challenge could not be more clear: As the 21st century takes
shape, the stakes are higher. The dangers are increased. The worries
are graver. Our challenge is more pronounced.
Commensurately, our resolve must be greater.
The United States already plays a prominent role in responding
to these myriad proliferation threats.
Over the course of the last decade, we have developed a number
of programs to support the global effort to remove and/or secure
vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials:
-- To reduce stockpiles and available quantities of nuclear materials,
we have been working closely with Russia to irreversibly blend-down
at least 500 metric tons of surplus high-enriched uranium (HEU).
At the end of 2003, over 200 metric tons had been eliminated.
-- We have accelerated our efforts to secure 600 metric tons of
weapons-usable material in Russia. To date, we have upgraded security
on over 40 percent of this material.
-- We are working to further reduce quantities of weapons-usable
HEU by converting research reactors in the United States and abroad
to use low-enriched uranium (LEU), and we are working to eliminate
174 metric tons of HEU in the United States.
-- We are also working proactively and cooperatively with Libya,
the IAEA, and international partners to dismantle Libya's weapons
of mass destruction infrastructure.
-- We are coordinating with our counterparts in Moscow to return
Russian-origin HEU fuel to Russia. In 2003, in cooperation with
the IAEA and with Minatom [Russian atomic energy agency], we removed
17 kilograms of Russian-origin fresh HEU from Bulgaria and returned
it to Russia for safe storage.
-- We also returned approximately 14 kilograms of fresh Russian-origin
HEU from Romania to Russia to be down-blended and used for civil
nuclear purposes. And most recently, working with the IAEA, we
returned 17 kilograms of HEU from Libya's research reactor to Russia.
-- Under the U.S.-origin spent fuel return program, we have returned
approximately 1,100 kilograms of HEU spent fuel to the United States
for final disposition. We are cooperating with approximately 40
countries to improve the security and controls of high-risk radiological
materials that could be used in a radiological dispersal device,
or "dirty bomb."
-- And, we have recovered and secured approximately 10,000 high-risk
radiological sources in the United States, a figure that exceeds
our congressionally mandated target for recovering and securing
our domestic sources.
In addition, last year the United States and the Russian Federation
co-hosted an international conference with the IAEA to address
the threat posed by dirty bombs, and to come up with a joint course
It was a very successful conference. More than 120 nations participated,
and it produced action on a variety of fronts, including:
-- Identifying high-risk radioactive sources that were not under
secure and regulated control, including "orphan" sources.
-- Launching an international initiative to facilitate the location,
recovery, and securing of such sources.
-- And, calling on all IAEA member states to enhance their own
national regulatory bodies to address safety and security of radioactive
sources in their countries.
I am proud of our action to deal with RDDs [radiation dispersal
devices], just as I am proud of all of the efforts I mentioned.
The work my Department has done in conjunction with the IAEA and
the international community has, to a large degree, been very effective.
But we would be fooling ourselves --- and endangering our citizens
-- to think that these past efforts are enough. The continually
shifting nature of geopolitics ... the ever-forward advancement
of science and technology ... the hardened determination of terrorists
to sow death and destruction --- all of these demand that we continually
reassess the situation, that we constantly revisit the topic at
hand, and that we incessantly update our defenses and our plans
to combat proliferation threats.
That is why I have come to Vienna this week.
As the global proliferation threat continues to evolve, it has
become clear that an even more comprehensive and urgently focused
effort is needed to respond to emerging and evolving threats.
Although we are accomplishing much, there is more we can do.
So this morning I am announcing that, in order to respond to this
evolving proliferation threat, the United States is establishing
a new initiative to secure, remove, or dispose of an even broader
range of nuclear and radiological materials around the world that
are vulnerable to theft.
We are calling this new initiative the Global Threat Reduction
Initiative --- or GTRI.
This Global Threat Reduction Initiative is an attempt to present
a workable strategy for addressing the threat posed by the entire
spectrum of nuclear materials. It reflects the realities of the
21st century that were so startlingly made clear on a September
morning three years ago.
We have developed this initiative with the expectation it can
comprehensively and more thoroughly address the challenges posed
by nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment that
require attention, anywhere in the world, by ensuring they will
not fall into the hands of those with evil intentions.
We will do this by the securing, removing, relocating or disposing
of these materials and equipment -- whatever the most appropriate
circumstance may be -- as quickly and expeditiously as possible.
Specifically under the Initiative:
-- We will first work in partnership with Russia to repatriate
all Russian-origin fresh HEU fuel by the end of next year. We will
also work with Russia to accelerate and complete the repatriation
of all Russian-origin spent fuel by 2010. We will do this on a
priority basis according to security threat, so that we remove
or secure the most dangerous materials first.
-- Likewise, we will take all steps necessary to accelerate and
complete the repatriation of all U.S.-origin research reactor spent
fuel under our existing program from locations around the world
within a decade. Again, we will undertake these efforts in an order
dictated by the need to handle the most dangerous, least secure
-- Third, we will work to convert the cores of civilian research
reactors that use HEU to use low enriched uranium fuel instead.
We will do this not just in the United States --- where we are
scheduled to complete core conversion by 2013 --- but throughout
the entire world. And we will target those reactors first where
the threats and vulnerabilities are highest.
-- Fourth, we will work to identify other nuclear and radiological
materials and related equipment that are not yet covered by existing
threat reduction efforts, and we will rapidly address the most
vulnerable facilities first, to ensure that there are not any gaps
that would enable a terrorist to acquire these materials for evil
To help do all this, we will establish a single organization within
the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration
to focus exclusively on these efforts.
Moreover, we are prepared to spend the resources necessary to
guarantee success. The United States plans to dedicate more than
$450 million to this effort which should be more than sufficient
to complete the U.S. Foreign Research Reactor Spent Fuel Return,
the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return efforts and to also fund
the conversion of all targeted U.S. and Russian supplied research
reactor cores under the Reduced Enrichment for Test Research and
Test Reactors (RERTR) program. But we will need more funds ---
and heightened international cooperation --- to finish the job.
Dedicated as we are to this effort, it is also clear to me that
a truly effective nonproliferation regime is made up of the collaboration
of efforts by all of us, not just a few. This is particularly the
case regarding the collection of materials that are not of Russian
or American origin, or that may be located in places where cooperation
requires a broader international effort, and that pose certain
challenges that the United States and Russia cannot address alone.
So today I am also proposing that the IAEA and international community
join us in holding a Global Threat Reduction Initiative Partners'
Conference later this Fall. This conference would examine how to
address material collection and security in places where --- as
mentioned before --- a broader international effort is required.
It would also focus on material collection and security of other
proliferation-attractive materials, not of U.S. or Russian origin,
such as those located at conversion facilities, reprocessing plants,
and industrial sites, as well as the funding of such work.
In the coming weeks, we will be discussing this event in more
detail with Director General ElBaradei and the IAEA and I expect
we will be issuing invitations very soon.
Consolidating current programs ... speeding the return of Russian
and U.S. origin fuel ... securing the most dangerous materials
worldwide to reduce the most perilous threats ... working together
on an international basis. That is the agenda before us.
We will take these steps because we must. The circumstances of
a dangerous world have thrust this responsibility on the shoulders
of the civilized world. We don't have the luxury of sitting back
and not taking action.
As President Bush said in a speech at the National Defense University
in February: "The greatest threat before humanity today is the
possibility of secret and sudden attack with chemical or biological
or radiological or nuclear weapons... America, and the entire civilized
world, will face this threat for decades to come."
He is right: We will face this threat for years to come.
Not only will we ... we must.
The responsibility falls to us ... to take necessary action to
prevent the horrors of 9/11 being replayed, but on a nuclear scale.
That is why the President has increased attention on this evolving
threat and as a result of his February speech we have undertaken
this new Initiative.
The responsibility falls to us ... to ensure that the civilized
world continues to enjoy the peaceful uses of the atom --- in medicine,
electricity generation, and beyond --- while minimizing or eliminating
I am optimistic that we can do this.
And because of the resolve shown by President Bush, Director General
ElBaradei, Member Nations and the dedicated men and women of the
IAEA, I am confident that we will. Thank you.