17 Tons of U.S.-Supplied Weapons-Grade Nuclear Material Missing

Thursday, September 15, 2011
The United States has lost sight of enough nuclear material, which was provided to friendly countries for civilian energy use, to manufacture hundreds of nuclear warheads.
An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could not completely account for about 17 tons of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium that was shipped to 27 nations over the past few decades. The agencies also were faulted for not having a sound policy for tracking down the materials.
America’s accounting for the exported nuclear material is so bad that the International Atomic Energy Agency may rule that the U.S. is in violation of its international anti-proliferation treaty obligations.
Although the U.S. has given more than two dozen countries nuclear fuel, reactors and reactor components for non-military purposes, it only conducts annual inventories with five of the nations. But because the location of this material is not properly monitored, it could be used to develop weapons of mass destruction, if it fell into the wrong hands.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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