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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2013
WASHINGTON, DC – President Obama’s proposed budget slashes funding for key programs that prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. The funding cuts come less than a month ahead of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, an initiative started by President Obama in 2010 to strengthen efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Among the hard-hit programs in the budget released today is the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which was cut by 30% from $442 million last year to $335.5 million in this year’s request. GTRI removes and disposes material from around the world that could be used by terrorists to make a dirty bomb or nuclear weapon. In March 2012, GTRI secured highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Ukraine, ensuring that state was free of all weapons-usable nuclear material before the recent turmoil. International Materials Protection and Cooperation was also slashed from $420 million to $305 million.
According to Kingston Reif, the director of nuclear non-proliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, “This budget is a step backwards in America’s best efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism and belies the administration’s claim that securing vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials is one of its tops national security priorities.”
Since 2009, GTRI has removed or disposed of almost 3,000 kilograms of HEU and plutonium, bringing the lifetime program total to over 5,060 kilograms. That is enough to make more than 200 nuclear weapons. The program has removed all weapons-usable nuclear material from 11 countries plus Taiwan: Austria, Chile, Czech Republic, Hungary, Libya, Mexico, Romania, Serbia, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam.
The global stockpile of nuclear materials is large enough to build more than 20,000 new weapons like the one that leveled Hiroshima and almost 80,000 like the one that destroyed Nagasaki. More than a hundred thefts and other incidents involving nuclear and radioactive material are reported to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) every year in regions ranging from Latin America and Europe, to Central Asia and Africa. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups have repeatedly demonstrated interest in acquiring weapons-grade material.
“The administration is wrong in thinking that it has accomplished its nuclear security goals and they can now reap a success dividend. They have made important strides but much more remains to be done,” said Kenneth Luongo, the president of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy.
“The significant impression this budget leaves is that the administration does not understand that without continued and strong U.S. leadership and funding this agenda will fade from the global stage – and that is a major international security threat,” Luongo said.
Luongo will discuss the budget and other nuclear terrorism issues at a press conference at noon on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
The Fissile Materials Working Group is a coalition of more than 70 leading experts and non-governmental organizations around the world 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.