In relying on threat assessments, it is wise to ask about the track records, evidence, and probabilities.
After months of signals that U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation beyond 2014 was in jeopardy, most work in that area now has stopped.
Congress voted in December to withhold the Energy Department’s $92.3 million fiscal year 2015 budget request for nuclear material security work in Russia...
Although Russia and the United States are continuing to work together on global nuclear threat reduction, the future of their collaborative efforts after the end of this year remains uncertain.
Thomas Countryman took office as assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation on September 27, 2011. He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1982. While serving in the U.S. mission to the United Nations in the mid-1990s, he was the mission’s liaison with the UN Special Commission investigating Iraq's unconventional weapons programs.
"Redirecting" scientists who worked in programs to produce weapons of mass destruction is a key part of U.S. nonproliferation efforts. In spite of current budget constraints, the United States needs to improve its capacity in that area. The difficulties that such programs faced in Iraq provide valuable lessons for future work.
In early July, U.S. forces transferred 550 metric tons of yellowcake, the compound made from mined natural uranium ore, from the Iraqi nuclear site of Tuwaitha to a port in Montreal. If the material were processed for military purposes, it would be sufficient for as many as 50 nuclear weapons. The Canadian corporation Cameco purchased the nuclear material.
In a July 7 briefing, Department of State spokesperson Sean McCormack said the operation was conducted according to applicable International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations. Citing "security concerns," McCormack noted that the transfer was done secretly. An unnamed senior U.S. official told the Associated Press in July that the transferal took nearly three months, beginning in April. (Continue)
U.S. threat reduction programs in Russia registered three significant successes in April. First, the Department of Defense announced April 9 that its Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) program had helped Russia completely dismantle and destroy its stockpile of SS-24 ICBMs. Later the same month, the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced that the U.S.-Russian Material Consolidation and Conversion (MCC) program had downblended 10 metric tons of Russian highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium in its nine years of existence. Finally, with U.S. funding and support from the NNSA, Russia completed the shutdown of a reactor that produces weapons-grade plutonium in Seversk. (Continue)