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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – Four months after pledging to invest in nuclear terrorism prevention efforts, the Obama administration cut funding for a key program designed to stop nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands, according to the Fissile Materials Working Group – an international coalition of more than 70 leading non-governmental organizations in nuclear security.
Released last week, the Obama Administration’s budget cuts $76.5 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which secures vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials worldwide that could be fashioned into a crude nuclear device or dirty bomb. The reduction in funding comes four months after a pledge to invest in nuclear security efforts and four years after the President’s Prague speech where he pledged to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years.
At a December event celebrating the 20-year anniversary of U.S threat reduction efforts, President Obama said, “even as we make some very tough fiscal choices, we're going to keep investing in these programs—because our national security depends on it.” The $424.5 million budget request represents a 15 percent drop from the pre-sequester budget.
“If we’re serious about keeping nuclear materials off the black market, we need to support efforts that go out there and get the job done,” said Kingston Reif, Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. “For the second year in a row the President’s budget has not matched his rhetoric,” Reif said.
Since 2009, GTRI has removed more than 1,400 kilograms of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, enough for dozens of nuclear weapons. Earlier this month the program removed two nuclear weapons worth of material from the Czech Republic. The removal eliminated the country’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium.
"The administration says that their four year nuclear security effort is a sprint, but this budget slows the pace before the race has been won,” said Kenneth Luongo, President of Partnership for Global Security.
The budget request also significantly reduces funding for the controversial Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program. Mox disposes of excess weapons-grade plutonium by mixing it with uranium and burning it in civilian reactors. The program has been plagued by cost overruns and schedule delays.
Alan Kuperman, director of the Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin said the review should lead to adopting a different approach. “Disposing of plutonium is vital, but doing so by fabricating it into MOX fuel could encourage worldwide civilian use of plutonium as fuel, which would magnify risks of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation. “
The Fissile Materials Working Group is an international coalition of more than 70 leading experts and non-governmental organizations in nuclear security. It was formed to support and help implement the goal of promptly securing all vulnerable fissile materials globally. For more information, visit www.fmwg.org.