U.S. to secure vulnerable uranium and plutonium around the World

The U.S. Energy Department on Monday disclosed plans to secure hundreds of pounds of vulnerable uranium and plutonium around the world by October 2015.

In its 2014-2018 Strategic Plan, the department listed as a “priority goal” for the fiscal 2014-2015 period the removal or confirmed disposal of roughly 700 pounds of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. The document did not specify source countries for the nuclear weapon-sensitive materials, or in what quantities.

If the department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration is able to successfully secure the plutonium and uranium, it would bring the total amount of weapons-sensitive material secured by the United States to 11,755 pounds.

The plan was released on the heels of a Nuclear Security Summit last month in the Netherlands. There the United States joined 22 other nations in pledging to comply with international guidelines for securing materials that could be used in a so-called “dirty bomb” — one capable of spreading radiation by detonating conventional explosives paired with sensitive atomic materials.

The Energy Department also outlined additional nuclear-security goals in its 32-page plan. These include:

— Finishing the disposal of 154 metric tons of unneeded domestic highly enriched uranium by the end of fiscal 2018.

— Fielding fixed radiation-detection equipment at roughly 622 global sites and providing 148 mobile radiation-monitoring systems and technology training to 44 nations before fiscal 2019.

— Safeguarding a projected 2,327 facilities containing especially sensitive atomic and radiological substances by fiscal 2018.

— Cooperating with 38 nations by the end of fiscal 2018 to enhance their respective export-control regulations to limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction-sensitive materials and technologies.

The department said efforts to reduce global nuclear-security threats were one of its 12 “strategic objectives.” Other objectives include ensuring a safe and reliable nuclear deterrent absent a return to testing, and the modernization of the country’s atomic national security infrastructure.

The Strategic Plan made no mention of the future of the mixed-oxide fuel fabrication facility, currently under construction in South Carolina. Energy officials earlier this year said they want to halt work on the project. They have yet to determine an alternative for the program, which is intended to dispose of surplus weapons-grade plutonium as mandated under a nonproliferation pact with Russia.

Courtesy of NTI Newswire