Nuclear Nonproliferation: Status of U.S. Efforts to Improve Nuclear Material Controls in Newly Independent States   [open pdf - 882KB]

Over the years, the Soviet Union produced about 1,200 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. U.S. efforts to help the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union better protect their stocks of this deadly material--which are vulnerable to theft and diversion because of antiquated security systems--got off to a slow start but are now gaining momentum. Many independent states lack modern equipment to detect unauthorized removal of highly enriched uranium and plutonium from nuclear facilities. Seizures of nuclear material in Russia and Europe have heightened concerns about a possible black market for this material. The Defense Department (DOD) has obligated $59 million and spent about $4 million during fiscal years 1991-95 for security improvements in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Initially the program moved slowly because Russian officials had refused access to their facilities, and DOD projects at facilities in Ukraine, Kazakstan, and Belarus were just getting under way. The program gained momentum in January 1995 when U.S. and Russian officials agreed to upgrade nuclear materials controls at five high-priority facilities. The Energy Department plans to request $400 million over seven years to improve controls at nuclear facilities in the newly independent states. However, the expanded program faces uncertainties involving its overall costs and U.S. ability to verify that the assistance is being used as intended. GAO summarized this report in testimony before Congress; see; Nuclear Nonproliferation: U.S. Efforts to Help Newly Independent States Improve Their Nuclear Materials Controls, by Harold J. Johnson, Associate Director for International Relations and Trade Issues, before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senate Committee on Government Affairs. GAO/T-NSIAD-96-119.

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