Nuclear Confab to Urge ‘Minimized’ Stocks of Bomb-Usable Plutonium

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
Global Security Newswire Staff
March 24, 2014, 9:37 a.m.

A draft state­ment for glob­al lead­ers at­tend­ing this week’s nuc­le­ar sum­mit in­cludes a prom­ise to main­tain only “min­im­um” stocks of weapon-us­able plutoni­um.

A Janu­ary ver­sion of the Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit 2014 com­mu­nique, which is to go for ap­prov­al be­fore all 53 na­tions par­ti­cip­at­ing in the two-day Hag­ue event, would for the first time urge par­ti­cip­at­ing coun­tries to work on lim­it­ing their ci­vil­ian stocks of plutoni­um, For­eign Policy re­ports.

The not-yet-is­sued state­ment also urges world­wide re­duc­tions in weapons-grade urani­um. Either sub­stance can be used in non-mil­it­ary set­tings, but also po­ten­tially could be ap­plied to­ward build­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon.

“We en­cour­age states to min­im­ize their stocks of HEU [highly en­riched urani­um] and to keep their stock­pile of sep­ar­ated plutoni­um to the min­im­um level, con­sist­ent with na­tion­al re­quire­ments,” the pro­vi­sion­al com­mu­nique states. Pres­id­ent Obama and 52 oth­er world lead­ers are at­tend­ing the two-day event.

The spe­cif­ic word­ing has yet to be agreed to by all sum­mit par­ti­cipants, ac­cord­ing to in­formed in­siders and notes on the draft com­mu­nique.

The pre­vi­ous two sum­mits in 2010 and 2012 fo­cused on re­du­cing ci­vil­ian sup­plies of HEU ma­ter­i­al, which has few­er com­mer­cial uses.

Sep­ar­ated plutoni­um can be used to power war­heads and , if re­pro­cessed, used to fuel atom­ic-en­ergy re­act­ors. The lat­ter use has caused a num­ber of coun­tries such as In­dia, Ja­pan and Rus­sia to make plutoni­um-burn­ing re­act­ors a fo­cus of their nuc­le­ar-power sec­tors.

Mean­while, France and the United King­dom have gen­er­ated plutoni­um for ex­port, ac­cord­ing to the magazine. Else­where, South Korea is angling to be al­lowed to use plutoni­um re­pro­cessing tech­no­logy in a new atom­ic trade deal be­ing ne­go­ti­ated with the United States.

The atom­ic-en­ergy sec­tor’s re­li­ance on plutoni­um has caused glob­al stocks of the nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al to rise even as HEU caches are be­ing re­duced — in large part due to the na­tion­al com­mit­ments made at pre­vi­ous nuc­le­ar-se­cur­ity sum­mits. World­wide plutoni­um stocks are presently as­sessed at 490 tons, enough to power tens of thou­sands of war­heads.

Jon Wolf­sth­al, deputy dir­ect­or of the James Mar­tin Cen­ter for Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion Stud­ies, said Wash­ing­ton for years has been at­tempt­ing to con­vince na­tions pos­sess­ing large quant­it­ies of plutoni­um to prom­ise to cap or lower the amount of ma­ter­i­al they hold in re­serve.

However, na­tions with atom­ic-en­ergy sec­tors “have been re­luct­ant to link the is­sue of nuc­le­ar ter­ror­ism to their stock­piles of com­mer­cial plutoni­um,” out of con­cern that do­ing so would draw neg­at­ive at­ten­tion to their own plutoni­um stocks, he said.

As host of this year’s sum­mit, the Neth­er­lands has been lead­ing the cam­paign to in­clude word­ing on plutoni­um min­im­iz­a­tion in the sum­mit’s joint state­ment, ac­cord­ing to one in­formed source cited by the magazine.

Ja­pan on Monday an­nounced it would sur­render hun­dreds of pounds of weapon-us­able plutoni­um to the United States as part of its so-called “gift-bas­ket” to the Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Sum­mit pro­cess.

What We're Following See More »
CONGRESS BETTER GET ON BOARD
Mnuchin: Expect Tax Overhaul by August
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
‘TOP OF THE PACK’
Trump Looking to Expand Nuclear Arsenal
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS
HAD ATTRACTED A CROWD TODAY
Alt-Right Leader Spencer Removed from CPAC
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
RECREATIONAL USERS
White House Promises Crackdown on Pot
11 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SAYS LEFT WILL GO INTO “MELTDOWN”
Cruz Predicts Another SCOTUS Vacancy “This Summer”
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login