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U.S. Wants to Intensify Global Nuclear Security Efforts

Research reactors targeted by new program, energy secretary says

05-26-2004

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.

It includes:

-- 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 threats.

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 materials.

"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 those materials.

Following is the text of Abraham's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Department of Energy
[Vienna, Austria]
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 anonymous work.

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 capital.

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 ends.

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 disposed of.

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 of action.

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 materials first.

-- 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 purposes.

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 any dangers.

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.