Preventing Nuclear Proliferation and Nuclear Terrorism: Essential Steps to Reduce the Availability of Nuclear-Explosive Materials

This report proposes a set of initiatives aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to more countries and to non-state terrorist and criminal organizations. The most effective way to do this is to strictly limit access to the key nuclear-explosive materials required to make nuclear weapons: high-enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium. These materials must be secured and, where possible, eliminated; and the number of locations where they can be found or produced drastically reduced.

We propose measures to strengthen international security standards on the storage and transport of fissile materials; stop the spread of facilities capable of producing fissile materials (reprocessing and enrichment plants); end verifiably the production of fissile material for weapons; dispose of excess weapons and civilian fissile materials; and phase out the use of HEU as a reactor fuel.

Although the measures called for have been on the international agenda for decades, most are barely moving forward, if not completely stalled. These measures urgently need high-level attention.

Specifically, we call for the following initiatives:

  • A finding by the U.N. Security Council that a country that withdraws from the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and seeks to use for weapons purposes materials and technology acquired while it was a member constitutes a threat to international security and that such country will be subject to a clearly articulated escalating set of sanctions imposed by the international community. Exporters and importers should negotiate bilateral safeguards as a backup to international safeguards to assure that, in addition to a country's obligations under the NPT, they have a bilateral agreement that any nuclear facilities, equipment, or material that is exported will not be converted to weapons use. Such backup safeguards are already mandated in some agreements for nuclear cooperation between supplier and receiver countries;
  • The establishment of internationally verified minimum standards for the physical protection of fissile materials;
  • An international agreement that countries will build new uranium enrichment plants only if they have been first reviewed and approved under agreed criteria by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or a special committee under the U.N. Security Council and are subject to an additional level of multinational oversight;
  • A moratorium on building new spent-fuel reprocessing plants until the existing plutonium stocks, including excess military stocks, are disposed of, and phase-out of plutonium separation at existing reprocessing plants if there is no compelling economic rationale to continue;
  • A Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) to end further production of fissile materials for weapons or outside international safeguards;
  • Actions by the United States and Russia to dispose of fissile materials recovered from excess weapons;
  • A phaseout of the use of HEU in reactor fuel and critical assemblies.