Nuclear Nonproliferation: Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials Page: 3 of 28
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Chairman Akaka, Ranking Member Johnson, and Members of the
I am pleased to participate in this hearing in advance of the Nuclear
Security Summit in South Korea. As you know, in 2009, President Obama
announced an international initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear
materials around the world within 4 years, and leaders of 47 nations
endorsed this initiative at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit here in
Washington. The leaders pledged to work together toward this end and
also reaffirmed the fundamental responsibility of nations to maintain
effective security of the nuclear materials and facilities under their control.
At the conclusion of the summit, the leaders agreed to meet again in
South Korea in March 2012 to evaluate their work and set new goals for
nuclear security, including the security of radiological material. We
recognize the importance of the Summit as a way to galvanize
international support for reducing the risks posed by the proliferation of
these dangerous materials and are pleased to see that radiological
material security will be given greater attention. This could provide a more
comprehensive and balanced approach to risk reduction efforts by the
One of the most serious threats facing the United States and other
countries is the possibility that other nations or terrorist organizations
could steal a nuclear warhead or nuclear weapon-usable materials from
poorly secured stockpiles around the world,1 or that nations could divert
nuclear material intended for peaceful purposes to the development of
nuclear weapons. Terrorists or countries seeking nuclear weapons could
use as little as 25 kilograms (Kg) of weapon-grade highly enriched
uranium (HEU) or 8 Kg of plutonium to construct a nuclear weapon. Of
great concern is that terrorists could fashion a crude nuclear bomb made
from either HEU or plutonium into an improvised nuclear device (IND). An
IND would create an explosion producing extreme heat, powerful
shockwaves and intense radiation that would be immediately lethal to
individuals within miles of the explosion, as well as radioactive fallout over
thousands of square miles. Nonproliferation experts estimate that a
successful IND could produce the same force as the equivalent yield of
the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, Japan, in 1945; it could devastate the
1Weapon-usable nuclear materials are highly enriched uranium, uranium-233, and any
plutonium containing less than 80 percent of the isotope plutonium-238. Such materials
are also often referred to as fissile materials or strategic special nuclear materials.
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Nuclear Nonproliferation: Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials, text, March 14, 2012; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc302888/m1/3/: accessed April 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.